CFL’s head of officiating announces retirement

The man in charge of the CFL’s officiating is leaving the job.

Glen Johnson, league’s senior vice president of football announced on Thursday he is retiring  after almost three decades.

“It just feels like the right time,” Johnson said in statement. “Our game is in a great place, with scoring up, penalties down and a strong team of dedicated officials in place. And while I will always be a huge CFL fan, I’d like to see what it’s like to spend summer and fall weekends focused on family and friends instead of football alone.”

Johnson has worked for the CFL for 28 seasons, including  24 as an on-field official.  He worked 416 games, earning eleven Grey Cup assignments. His father Gord spent 16 years as an on-field official who earned four Grey Cup assignments and the Johnsons remain the only father-and-son duo to have both officiated a Grey Cup game.

“Glen has made a huge contribution to our league, on and off the field,” said Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner of the Canadian Football League. “He has been an active official, a dedicated administrator, a strong advocate and, through his work with our coaches and rules committee, an architect of our game.”

Johnson joined the league office following the 2013 CFL season. Since then, he has been responsible for spearheading innovations including the use of video replay to review judgment calls such as pass interference amd the introduction of the first ever officiating exchange program between the CFL and the NFL .

Johnson has agreed to continue to consult on an as-needed basis.


36 Comments on CFL’s head of officiating announces retirement

  1. Sorry to sound calllous but can he take Jake Ireland with him? He is the architect of the PI rules we suffer thru today. Especially the IC rule that everyone hates so much.

  2. BigRedMachine // December 7, 2017 at 2:40 pm //

    Nice of the Commish to allow him to retire gracefully as opposed to being forced out. I think he had some good ideas but the command center has become a bigger problem than on field reffing….

    • I concur with you on this comment. THere were rumours swirling that Johnson was hoping to be appointed commish, so the fact they hired Ambrosie and that one of Ambrosie’s first steps was to reduce the number of coaches challenges, could both be seen as a repudiation of Johnson’s approach. However, classy move by Johnson and Ambrosie, and this doesn’t take away from his overall body of work, which is a very distinguished CFL career. Also had no idea he was part of a father-son referee duo. Very cool! Wish him well on his retirement.

      • Johnson was completely against challenges when they were 1st introduced. He looked at them as disrespectful to the on field officials and their abilities.

  3. Great start. Now fire Ireland and Jeff Harbin and start over

  4. Bring back Tom Higgins.

    • I agree Higgins was much better than people gave him credit for at the job and we saw how bad it’s become since he left the post. The guy actually called me twice, once to return a call I left questioning an on field call a second time as he was reaching out to fans about thoughts on the rules and on field officiating. Now that’s going to the fans and earning respect.

  5. The only worry I have is who will they bring in to replace him? He could be worse.

  6. Scottsask // December 7, 2017 at 3:19 pm //

    Felt it was time to retire……or told it was time to retire? Either way, best of luck to him.

  7. Good riddance. Time to fire Jake Ireland and Jeff Harpin.

  8. Sorry to say it but good riddance and good news! The review centre screwed nearly as many calls as the on field. Andre Prioux needs to leave too. Ambroise is making the right moves. Well done!

  9. That’s an early Christmas present. Thanks Randy.

  10. How many millions has it cost the football clubs across Canada with miss – calls

    The talley in 5 years has to be enormous

  11. I played football, and have watched tons of football, and a couple of today’s rule enforcements drive me nuts. Pass interference and illegal contact. I don’t have a big problem with the “no-jamming” after five yards, it’s the definition of contact! It seems to me that the old rules have changed in three ways. (1) What happened to the concept of a DB being entitled to his space, and not having to yield? (ie, having inside position) (2) Having an equal right to the ball? (3) Incidental contact was allowed if the DB is going for the ball?

    No yards on punts. There should be automatic league review on no yards calls. When a punt is returned and a NY penalty is called, the kicking and receiving teams have to leave the field, and O and D teams come on. There’s usually a beer ad or three on change of possession, so the league could review, tell the on-field official it’s overturned, and be ready for the snap of the ball. I may not like Kent Austin much, but he’s smart, and said one thing last year that I agree with completely; He said the “No yards rule was unenforceable!”

    • BigRedMachine // December 7, 2017 at 5:23 pm //

      And then a couple of years ago they added the illegal down field penalty which is equally subjective. Last thing they needed was another subjective penalty on punts. Was called in the GC and led to the snap going over Maver’s head on the re-kick giving the Argos an important 2 points.

  12. Congrats to Mr. Johnson on a solid career with the CFL.

    Now, as mentioned above, let’s clean house in the video review office and perhaps hire Black and Forde away from TSN. Why?

    1. They can’t be any worse than what we’ve had to endure….and
    2. It would get them off the TSN broadcasts!

    • Paul Bomber // December 7, 2017 at 6:30 pm //

      can you guarantee we’ll never have to listen to black make any more stuuuuuuuuupid comments? If so, I’m on board.

      I’m so-so on Forde, but I actively despise black… We could replace him with a book of off-point clichés or perhaps a head of cabbage.

    • Nicely said ticats, throw in Andre Proulx too.

  13. I would just like to concur on removing Ireland and Harbin from the video review. How many times can they screw up the reviews? They should’ve been fired after the second time it happened. For God sake, they have every camera angle available and still F it up! Fire them now Randy!!!!

  14. Ridergirl // December 7, 2017 at 5:50 pm //

    Yes Tom Higgins is a good fellow to hire for the control room. PLEASE can we go back to where we were with regards to IC and PI, my NFL friends call the CFL the Canadian Flag football league. Can we move the goal post to the back of the end zone. That will make our game more modern to advance us to being the best football league

  15. Too bad he didn’t get fired


  17. A small step in the right direction as the quality of CFL officiating, both on the field and in the booth is at an all-time low.
    It’s almost hard to imagine it getting worse and I am quickly losing any trust I had that Ambrosie has any idea how to fix it.

  18. This is good news, this is wonderfull news. But why did it take so long? This man clearly didn’t get it. He was allowed to hang around for 4 years even though he was obviously damaging the league. If the people that run this league had the same intelligence,dedication and professionalism as the players,coaches and football operations people we would indeed have some thing special.

  19. Some of you are so cruel. He’s gone OK? Let him go in peace. You’re happy, let him go out with dignity.

    Af far as comments re the video review centre, totally agree that changes NEED to be made. Less challenges is not going to solve the problem. WE are not watching a 100 yard dash to the finish. The right call (thus right outcome) is more important than how long the game lasts. Real football fans don’t care if it goes a bit longer. On double headers, just leave enough time so you do not switch to the second game into the end of the first quarter. I HATE that.
    Many times you have to watch two places such as a sideline catch. You have to see hands for possession and feet for in/out of bounds. When a runner id fighting to cross the goal line, you need to watch the ball break the plane and when the knees touch to see which came first, or in the case of a fumble, did the knees touch before/after the ball starts coming out. Hard at fast speeds so I have no problem with challenges a/o video review. Can make a game of it myself guessing, but it is imperative that we get the right call on video review.

  20. Dundas dude // December 8, 2017 at 4:54 am //

    People need to be held accountable for all the problems in officiating that seem to be increasing in recent years (probably more likely league execs rather than refs). I dislike the excitement/spontaneity killing of coaches’ challenges. Video confirmation of turnovers and scoring plays are good, but second guessing other types of on field calls has created bigger problems than solved (for example the last Toronto game where a pivotal Tiger-Cats interception was overturned with a bogus PI call). I’d use video replay to help on field officials in real time if there is an obvious blown call. The playoffs were well reffed, so hopefully things are improving.

    • Dundas dude // December 9, 2017 at 3:29 am //

      When I say “video replay in real time”, I mean another set of reffing eyes watching the tv feed, which had, say, a couple seconds from the actual event to drop a flag and then say 30 seconds to confer with on field officials to determine whether or not an infraction occurred. Also, on field officials could also request “eye in the sky” conference, limited to 30 seconds, occasionally. At the end of the day it’s not an easy game to ref.

  21. 3rd and 1 // December 8, 2017 at 5:26 am //

    This is the best news I’ve heard or read about since the announcement that the last commissioner Jeffrey Orridge was stepping down June of 2017.
    Between Glen Johnson having total control of the onfield games rules, officiating, challenges, replays and replay officials in the replay booth. And Jeffrey Orridge being the puppet of a very select few in the league. The last couple years have been an embarrassment for a league looking to move forward and try to lead in both categories.
    We had a commissioner that would go dark 2 weeks after Grey Cup until late June. When we did hear from Orridge during the season. Most of the time it was incredibly negative. Attacking teams and their personal and players with fines and verbal tongue lashes. Especially for stuff that had been going on for many years by every club at one time or another. I could go in but why bother he’s gone never to come back.
    Now the man who felt he was the Ed Hervey of the CFL. That he had grown so big and powerful that he didn’t have to listen to anything or anybody is now on his way out the door. Thank bloody hell.
    These 2 men over a period of a few seasons had basically hijacked the CFL and made a mockery of it. Having to change a new rule challenge rule half way through a season because Johnson wouldn’t listen to reason before the season started. Showed exactly what type of control freak the league had put into a very high and powerful position.
    Randy O is a million times better that’s Jeffrey Orridge was for Commissioner. Now I hope they find and encorporate someone of the same caliber in a position that will work with everyone to clean up the current situation and make the games rules, regulations and challenges something everyone can stomach.

  22. Tiger man // December 8, 2017 at 7:52 am //

    Too many after game “we screwed up” statements…fans are losing faith that their team will get a fair shake with the officiating.

    Now, can we please hire someone who knows what they’re doing????

  23. BigRedMachine // December 8, 2017 at 10:26 am //

    Hope they bring someone in from the outside not someone who will try the same old things again. There has got to be someone from within the US college or NFL ranks that would appreciate a challenge such as this one. Right now the command center is a hot mess. No clarity as to what they control and don’t control. One game I remember Reilly slowly getting up after getting hit and you could see the ref in the background drop his flag way after the play was over. Clearly the command center instructed him to throw the flag. This would be fine as long as it was equally applied throughout the season but it clearly wasn’t. This hire might be more important than the commish himself….

    • BRM, not sure which instance you’re referring to but it wouldn’t have been the command centre’s doing. I queried the league office after an Argos- Esks game in which Reilly was clearly struck with a head to head tackle for a loss by Matt Black. It a crucial play on a third down gamble late in the game. The refs didn’t see the blatant call which didn’t really bother me because they can’t see everything but I was surprised the command centre didn’t catch it on their automatic review of all turnovers. In their reply the CFL office informed me the command centre has no authority to add a new penalty when one wasn’t called on the field unless there was a challenge.

      • BigRedMachine // December 8, 2017 at 1:18 pm //

        It was actually the last Edmonton/Calgary regular season game and I don’t recall the game situation but I do remember watching the official in the background meekly dropping the flag long after the play was over. If it wasn’t called by the command center, it certainly gave that appearance. Dickinson in his weekly radio interview mentioned it as well so I wasn’t the only one who noticed.

        • That was the game the week before the Esks-Argos game I mentioned. That so-called head to head hit wasn’t so obvious as the one the week later. I don’t recall the official throwing the flag late but have no objection if they did on this or any play so long as they get the call right. I hate it when they make a call when its borderline or if they didn’t actually see it clearly to begin with.

          • BigRedMachine // December 8, 2017 at 5:53 pm //

            I have no problem with the command center correcting a call on the field either. The problem is consistency. Why was that one corrected (assuming it was) but not others? Or in other cases forcing a coach to waste a precious challenge on an obvious call missed. Perhaps they should allow the command center to correct on field calls where it comes to player safety? But everything has to be transparent. Just thinking outside the box…

    • Subsequent to my inquiry about a week later the league suspended the official who they deemed was responsible for the non-call but took no action on fining Matt Black. There was also no apology on the non-call affecting the outcome of the game.

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