• Each team has one challenge per game
  • If a team is successful on its first challenge that team will be granted a second challenge
  • When a team is unsuccessful on a challenge it loses a time-out
  • In regulation time, a team must have a time-out remaining to challenge a play
  • In overtime, a team does not need a time-out to challenge a play
  • A team will receive a Delay of Game penalty when a coach attempts to challenge a play without both a challenge and a time out remaining (if required)
  • A team can only challenge once after the 3 minute warning has been given in the 4th quarter
  • A coach may challenge any reviewable play at any time during the game
  • A coach may challenge a play that has already been reviewed by the Command Centre

The challenge must be initiated by the Head Coach by throwing their challenge flag prior to the next legal snap or within 30 seconds of the start of a TV commercial break.

It is the responsibility of the coach to get the attention of the nearest official and to throw the challenge flag.

A challenge is deemed successful (or won) if the final ruling on the play is the outcome the team requested during their challenge.

A team will get their challenge back if a review changes a different ruling on the play which makes the team challenge not relevant.

There are two categories of coach initiated reviews:

  • Coach Challengeable Penalties
  • Standard Reviewable Rulings

A coach may challenge the following called or non-called fouls:

  • Defensive Pass Interference
  • Offensive Pass Interference
  • Illegal Interference – Blocking Downfield by an eligible pass receiver
  • Roughing the Passer
  • Roughing or Contacting the Kicker
  • No Yards

A coach may challenge the following called foul:

  • Illegal Block on a kick return

These penalties will only be reviewed when a coach challenges one of them and only the penalty the coach challenges will be reviewed.

An exception occurs when a coach challenges Defensive Pass Interference, Offensive Pass Interference or Illegal Interference - Blocking Downfield by an eligible pass receiver. When this happens the Command Centre will look at the players and actions identified by the coach to determine which of the three fouls, if any, is the correct ruling.

A coach can challenge any ruling that does not directly involve a called or non-called foul. The reviewable situations include but are not limited to:

  • Scoring and potential scoring plays
  • Possession of the ball including catches, fumbles, recovery of fumbles
  • Touching of the ball on kick or pass plays
  • Boundary line rulings including players and or balls going out of bounds
  • Ball spots including down by contact
  • The correct down
  • Clock and Timing issues
  • Whether players are in an onside position with respect to a kicked ball
  • Whether a pass travels forward or backwards

In addition, a coach can challenge a ruling which can then lead to the following called or non-called fouls being changed:

  • Major Foul which directly caused a turnover
  • Illegal Interference on a Kick Off
  • Illegal Forward Pass when the passer passes the ball from across the line of scrimmage or two forward passes occur on the same play or an ineligible player first touches the pass
  • Illegal Participation when a player goes out of bounds on their own and returns and participates in the play
  • Illegal Substitution when a player substitutes illegally
  • Punt Out of Bounds in Flight if a kick from scrimmage goes directly out of bounds between the 20 yard lines
  • No Yards should a review of first touching or onside or offside players change a restraining zone foul

Penalties which are created as a direct result of the change in a ruling may be applied even though a foul was not called during the play. Fouls that were called during the play may be nullified as a direct result of a change to the ruling.

When a play is challenged for either a coach challengeable penalty or a standard reviewable aspect all other appropriate Standard Reviewable Rulings will also be reviewed.


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Publication Credits

Content compiled and entered by 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, Senior Director of Officiating at Any inquiries regarding CFL Statistical Scoring Rules may be directed to Steve Daniel, Senior Director of Game Information and Statistics at