CFL goes to high-tech reviews

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

Tom Higgins prefers the term "command centre" to "war room", but the Canadian Football League is setting up a new Toronto office to aggressively speed up its video replays and coaches' challenges.

Similar to the high-tech bunkers the NFL and NHL use, the new system will do away with the referee peeking under a hood to see if a catch was made legally or a ball carrier was down by contact. Those two calls make up more than 90% to 95% of all challenges, though the hooded monitor will be kept for now as a backup.

"Our referees were at a disadvantage," said Higgins, the CFL's director of officiating. "They were in the heat of the moment, looking at a replay that sometimes seemed like rabbit ears (reception) with no high definition.

"When the challenge flag was thrown, the ref first had to gather the six other officials to discuss it, go to the coach and make sure it was being challenged properly, then look at the play under the hood. Sometimes it took more than (the mandated) 90 seconds, because he wanted to get it right after all that, no matter if someone was tapping him on the shoulder to hurry up.

"This new system is all about fan interest and continuity. We'll see what the home viewer sees. We're hoping that by the time the ref has gathered the other six together, we'll have a decision back at the office. We can move replays faster, slower and (highlight) some things the fan can't."

Higgins stressed the system isn't fool-proof, that no matter how many cameras are available, a random body could block the best replay angle.

"It's not perfect, but in those situations, you'd go back to the ruling on the field," he said.

A CFL person to oversee the command centre will be named soon. System trials will be run through pre-season games, though not all stadiums can test the necessary television equipment until regular-season broadcasts begin.

In a new rule this season, if two successful challenges are made, a third will be granted.


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