CFL makes six rule changes ahead of 2023 season

Photo: Paul Swanson/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

The CFL has made six rule changes ahead of the 2023 season following unanimous approval by the league’s board of governors.

Arguably the most significant rule change pertains to when a team is flagged for holding while the ball is in their end zone. Previously, the opposing team could choose only to accept or decline the penalty, though they can now opt for a safety.

In past years, players could hold a defender to prevent them from sacking the quarterback in the end zone. With the ball already being close to the end zone, there was little to no punishment for taking the penalty to prevent a safety. Now, the opposing team can be awarded a safety following the penalty, receiving two points and the ensuing punt.

Another rule change will affect how defences are able to line-up on field goal and convert attempts. No more than six players are permitted to be within two yards of the line of scrimmage on either side of the long snapper. This change was made to enhance player safety as teams can no longer overload the protection on one side of the long snapper.

The league has also made it illegal for any player or authorized member of a team bench to make avoidable contact with an official, which includes keeping the sidelines clear during play. Any contact with an official deemed avoidable will result in a 10-yard objectionable conduct penalty. The command centre will assist with the judgment regarding whether or not contact is avoidable.

The league called this change a way to draw “much-needed attention to the requirement of providing a safe workspace for officials.” This rule has been made in addition to existing rules regarding contacting officials that may result in ejections.

Another change was made regarding the rouge, a sometimes controversial element of the game. Previously, the ball had to be touched by the returning team on a kickoff in order for the kicking team to be awarded a rouge (ie. one point). This requirement has been eliminated, making it the same as the rouge rules for all other types of kicking plays.

The league made a number of changes to the starting position of drives ahead of the 2022 season and these changes have continued for 2023.

Under the new rules, teams will scrimmage at the 30-yard line when a kicked ball strikes the goal post in flight and when a team records an interception or fumble recovery in their own goal area. The ball will also be moved up five additional yards when a penalty or ruling awards possession of the ball to the opponent. Penalties that occur in the goal area will be applied from the 30 or 15-yard line, dependent upon the foul.

Finally, teams will no longer be permitted to have players wear both No. 0 and No. 00 due to the “significant issues with the statistical and scouting systems the teams deploy.” Teams can still assign players with No. 0 or No. 00.

“Last season’s changes yielded positive results across several key metrics,” said Darren Hackwood, the CFL’s associate vice-president of officiating in a statement. “The changes being introduced this year are focused on fine-tuning the rules from a health and safety perspective and to refine certain nuances in the game. These updates will build upon last season’s changes as the league and the rules committee continue to measure the impacts of the 2022 product review.”

CFL training camps are set to open nationwide on Sunday, May 14.