CFL makes microchipped footballs optional in kicking game, denies effect on field goal accuracy

Photo: Timothy Matwey/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

The CFL is making the use of microchipped footballs optional in the kicking game but denies their presence affects accuracy on field goals.

In a statement on Friday, commissioner Randy Ambrosie said the decision was made out of respect for the concerns raised by the league’s kickers but that the issue could be re-visited next season.

“Effective immediately, teams will no longer be mandated to use microchip-implanted footballs for kicking plays.
​However, because some kickers have expressed a desire to continue using them, teams will decide at the beginning of the game whether to use microchip-implanted balls or technology-free balls for the duration of the contest.
​The league has tested these footballs using robotic technology and current CFL players. While there is no definitive evidence to suggest their use impacts performance in any manner, we are taking this step out of respect for kickers who do not yet feel comfortable using them.
​The CFL will continue to test microchip-implanted balls. Their mandated usage will be revisited ahead of the 2025 season.
​Today’s decision in no way impacts our commitment towards the collection and usage of in-game performance metrics. The CFL remains steadfast in its approach of using data to better inform, engage and entertain current and future fans.”

On Thursday night, Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ kicker Sergio Castillo called out the use of microchipped footballs following his team’s season-opening loss to the Montreal Alouettes. He blamed the new technology for his poor accuracy in the game after he went one-for-three on his field goal attempts, missing wide from 38 and 40 yards out.

The 33-year-old, who connected on a team-record 90.2 percent of his field goals last year, claimed that his accuracy was reduced to under 60 percent when using the chipped balls in training camp and rendered it impossible for him to aim.

Brett Lauther, who kicks for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and is the vice-president of the CFL Players’ Association, released a statement on behalf of all specialists condemning the use of chipped balls following the game. He cited concerns over accuracy, accounts of players bruising their feet, and noted that the USFL shelved their chipped balls after two weeks in 2021 due to similar problems.

Lauther said the players exhausted all avenues to stop the introduction of chipped balls on special teams after kickers voted 10-1 against them. He also indicated the CFL didn’t confirm the chipped balls would be used until the night before the season opener.

Fellow kickers Sean Whyte of the B.C. Lions and Lewis Ward of the Ottawa Redblacks also spoke out about the footballs on social media.

The league began inserting microchips into their footballs for select games in 2023, though they weren’t used in the kicking game. The hardware helps generate real-time advanced statistics through Genius Sports, the CFL’s data and technology partner.