All field officials are equally responsible for the conduct of the game and no agreement shall be undertaken that would prevent the calling of any foul, against either team, by an official.

Each field official shall be equipped with a whistle and a coloured marker to be used to indicate a foul.

The sounding of the whistle shall stop the game.

The throwing of a marker indicates that a foul has been committed, but play shall continue until its termination.

The signal of "time in" shall be a clockwise sweep of the Referee's arm from the overhead position and the sounding of the Referee's whistle.

The Referee shall take primary charge of the game and shall:

  • Guide and direct the efforts of the other officials
  • Enforce the rules and apply penalties
  • Adjudicate upon disputes or matters not provided for in the rules
  • Take position behind Team A in order to observe that the ball is put into play legally and thereafter judge its possession and progress
  • Cover the actions of passers and kickers and the defensive actions of opponents
  • Cover lateral passes and onside kicks behind the line of scrimmage
  • Be primarily responsible for marking balls Out of Bounds in flight
  • In co-operation with the Head Linesman keep count of the downs
  • Notify each team captain when three minutes remain to be played in each half and furthermore may:
    • Overrule any other official
    • Cause the removal of any Sideline official and, if necessary,
    • Require the replacement of such Sideline official

NOTE: The Referee will have sole authority to judge when a measurement is required to determine if first down yardage has been gained.

The Umpire shall have jurisdiction over the conduct and actions of players on the scrimmage lines of both teams and shall take a position opposite the Referee behind the Offense (Team A).

The Back Judge shall have jurisdiction over the conduct and actions of players of both teams on Team B's side of the line of scrimmage and shall be responsible for Sideline violations down field.

The duties of the side judge shall be identical to those of the Back Judge.

The Field Judge shall have jurisdiction over the conduct and actions of players of both teams on Team B's side of the line of scrimmage and shall take a position down field between the hash marks.

The Head Linesman shall supervise and control the Yardsmen and their actions in the placement and movement of the yardsticks, under the direction of the Referee.

He shall record the number of each down and assist the Referee in this respect and shall systematically check the Sideline for player substitutions and ensure that only approved substitution procedures are used.

With the exception of:

  1. the supervision and control of the Yardsmen, and,
  2. the recording of downs,

the jurisdiction and duties of the Line Judge are identical to those of the Head Linesman.

Under the direction of the Head Linesman, the Downsman shall place a marker at the forward point of gain or loss after each play and shall indicate the number of each down on the marker provided.

Two Yardsmen shall function on one Sideline under the direction of the Head Linesman. They shall remain outside the Field of Play unless called to assist in measuring for a possible first down. They shall be equipped with two pickets, connected near the lower ends by a chain. The distance between these pickets shall measure 10 yards.

A third Yardsman shall be used to hold a single picket on the opposite Sideline to mark the 10-yard objective line. However, such picket shall not be used to determine whether a first down has been gained.

Prior to the game, the Scorer shall be provided with a complete list of the eligible competing players and the starting lineups, and shall keep a record of all scoring plays in the game.

The Timekeeper shall keep the time according to Rule 1, Sections 7 and 8, and shall notify the Head Linesman or Line Judge when three minutes remain in each half.

If the scoreboard clock should fail to operate, the Timekeeper shall, prior to the last minute of play in each quarter, take a position in order to be clearly visible to the Referee and at the commencement of the last minute of play, shall raise a flag and continue to hold it in a raised position until time has expired in that quarter.


In searchable permalink form

Tips on Linking to the Rulebook
Table of Contents

CFLdb is in need of a copy of the CFL 2012 and 2014 Rulebook. If you can loan/provide an electronic copy/help, please reach out.

You are reading the 2016 version of the rulebook. Other available versions of this page are:

Please report any issues with the converted rulebook.


Converted to the web by CFLdb. An Adobe Acrobat PDF of the current version is available.

The original source of the version presently being viewed is © Copyright 2016 Canadian Football League

Publication Credits

Content compiled and entered by Glen Johnson, Jeff Harbin 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 Darren Hackwood, Director of Officiating at Any inquiries regarding CFL Statistical Scoring Rules may be directed to Steve Daniel, Director of Game Information and Head Statistician at