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
  • Cover the actions by and against the passers and kickers
  • In co-operation with the Down Judge keep count of the downs
  • Notify each team captain when three minutes remain in each half

The Referee, if necessary, may:

  • Overrule any other official
  • Remove and replace any 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. The Umpire shall assist the Referee’s coverage of the passer should a defensive player break free on route to the Quarterback on the Umpire’s side of the centre.

The Down Judge shall supervise and control the Stick Crew and their actions in the placement and movement of the yardsticks, under the direction of the Referee. The Down Judge 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 Stick Crew, and,
  2. the recording of downs,

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

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

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 downfield.

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.

Under the direction of the Down Judge, the Downsbox Operator 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 Yardstick Operators shall function on one Sideline under the direction of the Down Judge. 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 Yardstick Operator 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.

[Ed. Note: Article 11 does not appear in the 2023 Rule Book, however, its removal was not noted in the 2023 Rule Changes. It is possible after a one-year trial the position has been abolished.]

Under the supervision of the Referee, the Communication Coordinator shall provide accurate and timely communication between the officials and the coaches when it is not feasible for an official to provide this information.


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Publication Credits

Content compiled and written 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, Associate Vice-President of Officiating at Any inquiries regarding CFL Statistical Scoring Rules may be directed to Jeff Krever, Head, CFL Player and Game Statistics at