Instant Replay is a system designed to assist officials in evaluating play situations on the field where judgment may be in question due to:

  • their positioning and limited view of the action;
  • the speed of the action, which makes a split second decision difficult;
  • an error in judgment.

All Instant Replay Reviews prior to the three-minute warning of the fourth quarter will be initiated by the head coach. All reviews after the three-minute warning of the fourth quarter will be initiated by the league.

Members of the CFL Officiating Department will monitor each and every game in its entirety from the CFL office. The television feed of the game will be recorded and used to determine the outcome of all challenges.

To initiate the review of a play, the head coach must decide to challenge the ruling on the field before the next legal snap of the ball. It is the responsibility of the coach to get the attention of the nearest official and to throw his challenge flag.

Once a play has been challenged by one of the teams or the league, there are two possible outcomes:

  1. The ruling on the field stands. This occurs when there is sufficient evidence to support the original ruling on the field or there is no indisputable evidence to overturn the ruling made on the field.
  2. The ruling on the field is overturned. This occurs when the Replay Official has indisputable visual evidence that the ruling should be changed.

The Referee will have sole responsibility in evaluating team challenges and deciding, based on this manual, whether or not a play is reviewable.

Each team will be entitled to two challenges per game. If they are successful with both challenges (i.e. the ruling is in their favour) and they still have at least one time-out remaining, they will be granted a third and final challenge. The teams are not permitted to use any challenges once the three-minute warning has occurred in the fourth quarter, regardless of how many challenges or time-outs they have remaining. If a team is unsuccessful with their first challenge, they will not lose a time-out. If they are unsuccessful with their second or third challenge, they will lose a time-out in either the first or second half. In other words they must have at least one time-out remaining if they want to use their second or third challenge.

Once a challenge flag is thrown by the coach, the Referee will consult with the other on-field officials to discuss the ruling that was made on the field. He will then go to the coach to find out what is being challenged. If the play is reviewable the Referee will announce what is being challenged.

At the same time, the Replay Official at the CFL office will immediately call the Supervisor at the stadium. They will remain on the line while the Replay Official reviews the play until he has come to a decision.

After announcing that a play has been challenged and is under review, the Referee will go to the sideline and put on the headset which will allow him to speak with the Supervisor at the stadium and the Replay Official at the CFL office.

By the time the Referee gets to the sideline, the hope is that the Replay Official at the CFL office will have already made his decision. Regardless, the Referee will tell the Replay Official exactly what is being challenged. The Replay Official will then do one of two things:

  1. Tell the Referee whether the ruling on the field was correct or incorrect and give a detailed explanation so that the Referee can go on-field and make the announcement to the stadium.
  2. Tell the Referee that he needs more time. The Replay Official will take the time he needs to ensure the correct ruling is made.

The Referee can provide information to the Replay Official if need be, however the purpose should not be to debate each of their opinions. The Replay Official is the one who will make the final ruling at all times. Once the decision has been made and the Referee has been informed, he will return to the field and announce the outcome of the review. At that point the phone call between the CFL office and the stadium will end.

For the final three minutes of regulation time and for the entire overtime period, the Replay Official will be on the phone with the Supervisor at the stadium. At that point, all challenges will be initiated by the CFL. If the Replay Official sees a play he wants to review, he will tell the Supervisor to page the on-field Referee.

Once the Referee feels his pager alerting him, he will blow his whistle and announce that the play is under review. He will then go to the sideline, put on the headset and speak with the Replay Official at the CFL office. Once he gets the correct ruling, he will return to the field and make the announcement. The Replay Official at the CFL office will remain on the line with the Supervisor until the conclusion of the game.

During all reviews, the on-field officials are responsible for the down, distance and scrimmage line of the previous play. This information can also be obtained from the Replay Technician at the stadium.

Time will not be put back onto the game clock as a result of a successful challenge. On the last play of a half, if time runs out during a play that is subsequently reviewed, the half is over, regardless of the result of the review.

Video board operators are not permitted to show replays on the video board in the stadium while a review is in progress. A review begins when the coach throws his challenge flag and ends when the Referee announces the result.


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The CFL Official Rule Book is published annually by the Canadian Football League. Any inquiries regarding the CFL Official Playing Rules may be directed to George Black at