Nine selected for CFL’s new Officiating Academy, including former CFL fullback Rolly Lumbala

Photo courtesy: CFL

The CFL has launched the Officiating Academy to increase the number of qualified high-performance officials in Canada.

Supported by the Canadian Professional Football Officials Association, the Canadian Football Officials Association, Football Canada and the CFL Players’ Association (CFLPA), the year-long program will provide participants with the opportunity to work closely with league staff and officials to deepen their knowledge of officiating and to develop the necessary skillset to work at the amateur and professional levels.

“The development of officials goes hand-in-hand with the growth of the game,” said CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie in a statement. “Whether these participants go on to work at the amateur level in their hometowns, or they join the league’s officiating crew one day, our focus is on providing a high-quality foundation for them to help elevate the future of Canadian football.”

“You can’t play entertaining and safe games without qualified and trained officials,” said CFLPA executive director Brian Ramsay. “The development of referees is an important way we can help grow the game and keep it competitive, and the Officiating Academy will help fulfill an important need for qualified game officials at all levels of football in Canada.”

The nine individuals selected for the program are as follows. The name that’s most familiar to CFL fans is Rolly Lumbala, who played with the B.C. Lions for eleven seasons (2008-18).

  • Alex Boily | St-Georges, Que. | ARAFQ | Line of scrimmage
  • Hassan Cohen | Nanaimo, B.C. | BCFOA | Deep side
  • Eric Gyebi | Brampton, Ont. | LFOA | Line of scrimmage
  • Romeo Kabongo | Airdrie, Alta. | CFOA | Deep side
  • Stephanie Korchynski | Winnipeg | MFOA | Line of scrimmage
  • Rolly Lumbala | Langley, B.C. | BCFOA | Line of scrimmage
  • Kyle Mikulik | Winnipeg | MFOA | Line of scrimmage
  • Anthony Williams | Dartmouth, N.S. | NSFOA | Line of scrimmage
  • Vincent Williams | Halifax | NSFOA | Deep side

Each participant will take part in the program for a maximum of two years. Successful graduates may then be selected to join the league’s staff, while others will join the pipeline of officials that continue to hone their craft at the amateur level until professional opportunities arise.

The program includes virtual and in-person sessions to develop the technical aspects of officiating, such as mechanics, standards, fitness and administration, as well as, in-depth preparation for performance at the highest levels.

“The life of an official extends beyond the field,” said the CFL’s associate vice-president of officiating Darren Hackwood. “In addition to game management and officiating philosophy, there’s much to learn about time commitments, personal stressors and more – these aspects of being an official aren’t talked about enough. They will be a part of this program and the league’s training moving forward. We’ll focus on technical skill, and also personal, emotional and mental well-being.”

“Our goal is to put officials in the best position to succeed, and in turn, they’ll be able to better support well-officiated and well-played football. Beyond the program, we’ll continue to work with our participants and monitor their progress as they move forward with their officiating careers.”

Participants will take part in CFL Officiating Training Camp from May 13-15 to connect and learn from seasoned league officials and to gain insight into working at the professional level. As part of the program, they may also be assigned to officiating opportunities at the Women’s Red/White Game, the East-West Bowl, passing showcases and CFL training camp scrimmages, or support staff positions for CFL games or in the CFL command centre.

“We’ve identified dedicated and passionate individuals who can expand the officiating footprint across the country — not only geographically, but also with under-served communities,” said CFL manager of football and officiating development and co-chair of the inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility committee Laurence Pontbriand.

“Under the leadership of commissioner Ambrosie, and in conjunction with the recently announced Women in Football Program and the Diversity in Football Program, the Officiating Academy is another core component of a broader strategy to uplift new voices and welcome different perspectives to the CFL.”