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 with the exception of scoring plays, unsuccessful field goals, unsuccessful kicked converts, interceptions, and fumbles lost which will automatically be reviewed by the Replay Official at any time they occur in the game. A scoring play is defined as any play where points have been awarded by the on-field officials, including: a touchdown, convert, safety, single point (rouge), or field goal.

All reviews after the three-minute warning has been issued in the fourth quarter up to and including the end of the game (including Overtime) will be initiated by the Replay Official and will include all reviewable aspects. The singular exception to this is that the head coach of a team may challenge a called or a non-called defensive pass interference foul ONCE during this period if the team has a challenge remaining and a team time out remaining. If a team challenges a called defensive pass interference foul during this time period, they will retain their team time out regardless of the outcome of the challenge but will lose their time out if they unsuccessfully challenge a non-called defensive pass interference foul. To challenge a called or non-called defensive pass interference foul in Overtime, a team need only have a challenge remaining.

A defensive pass interference call will only ever be reviewed if properly challenged by a head coach. The Replay Official will never initiate or automatically review a called or non-called defensive pass interference penalty. If the head coach disagrees with the ruling made by the Replay Official on a play that was automatically reviewed, the team may still use one of their remaining challenges to request that the play be reviewed a second time.

A league appointed Replay Official will monitor each and every game in its entirety from the CFL office(the “Command Centre”) or other approved site. The television broadcast feed of the game will be captured 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 reviewed by the Replay Official, 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, in consultation with the Replay Official, will have the responsibility of evaluating team challenges and deciding, based on the rules that govern instant replay, 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. They must have at least one time-out remaining if they want to use their second or third challenge. If a team is unsuccessful with their first challenge, they will not lose a timeout unless this challenge is for a non-called defensive pass interference in the last 3 minutes of a game and the challenge is unsuccessful in which case they will lose a timeout. If they are unsuccessful with their second or third challenge, they will lose a time-out. The exception to this is when a team loses its challenge on a called defensive pass interference foul in the last 3 minutes of a game, in which case they will not lose their timeout.

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.

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 communicate with the Officiating Supervisor at the stadium and the Replay Official at the CFL office. The Referee will first 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.

If the Replay Official sees a play he wants to review, he will tell the Officiating Supervisor to page the on-field Referee.

Once the Referee has been paged, he will blow his whistle, signal time out 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. Once he gets the correct ruling, he will return to the field and make the announcement.

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 Officiating Supervisor 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.


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Content compiled and entered by Glen Johnson and Andre Proulx

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 Glen Johnson, Vice-President, Officiating @