When the CFL’s Eastern and Western Division finals are played this weekend, there will be an extra official on the field.
The CFL announced Thursday that an eighth official will be on the field with his only responsibility being to watch for any blows delivered to the head or neck of a quarterback.
The change comes after a high hit to Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Brandon Bridge, which should have been assessed a penalty for roughing the passer, was not flagged during last weekend’s Western Semi-Final game. Video from a camera worn by the head referee showed his view had been blocked by a different player. Going into that game, there had been some anger over a hit delivered to Riders quarterback Zach Collaros in an October 27 game against B.C that also wasn’t penalized until Head Coach Chris Jones threw the challenge flag.
“It is very important that this sort of potentially dangerous play is penalized on the field in addition to being subject to supplementary discipline. Not only is it important to the integrity of the game, it can act as a deterrent,” said CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie in a statement
“That is why we are adding an additional set of eyes, with a strictly limited but well defined mandate, to our officiating crew. No system is fail safe and no human is incapable of error. And nothing we do on player safety should be held up as the ultimate solution. ” Ambrosie stated. “Our approach must constantly evolve. But we believe this is a step forward. We will continue to look for ways to not only penalize dangerous play but, more importantly, prevent it.”
The league says if the extra official sees a blow to the head or neck of the quarterback that hasn’t been flagged, he is to advise the head referee who can then assess a roughing the passer call.
Ambrosie says this move may become permanent and will be discussed after the season as well as other measures that can protect quarterbacks and other players as well. He adds this may also fall under a broader package of reforms which may include changes to the way the CFL Command Centre operates.