I am Glen Johnson, Vice President of Officiating for the Canadian Football League. AMAA!
Hi CFL fans, it's Glen Johnson, the league's Vice President of Officiating. I am happy to join you today to answer your questions as the 2014 regular season winds down and the playoff races heat up. So feel free to ask me almost anything. I will be here for 90 minutes.
Twitter Proof: https://twitter.com/CFL/status/526844235207938050
Hey everyone, I only have five more minutes left to answer your questions, then I have to take off! It's municipal election night in Toronto so I have to go vote!
Thanks for taking the time to ask me questions. Officiating is an important part of our game. Our officials do an excellent job. We will always strive for perfection. I believe a big part of my job is communication - not only with our officials, teams, players and coaches, but with our fans and media as well. I am glad we had this opportunity. I look forward to seeing you on the road to the 102nd Grey Cup in Vancouver. Thanks for being the best fans in sports.
The Rules Committee has considered altering the No Yards rule in the past. It came up again last year. One club proposed we use a technology halo on TV to be more consistent with it. We are always looking to innovate if it makes the game better. We are investigating the radio headset system used by the NFL for us to use next year. We often share ideas and learn from each other.
Thanks for taking the time to do this! Much appreciated!
What was the most controversial call you made as an on field official?
What was the closest and most difficult review that you've seen come through the booth?
Do you ever miss being an on field official?
Were you ever able to go to Zak's Diner in the Byward Market in Ottawa?
- I happened to be the Referee for the 2009 Grey Cup. It is very notable call, but I actually only announced it......3 other officials actually called it.
- The most difficult one was in the 2012 Grey Cup at the goal line - whether the player caught it, was he in bounds, did he hit the pylon? We looked at that for a long time!!!
- Every weekend
- Not yet, but I will put it on my list
OK, so I'll start it off. 5 rather easy questions.
What's the best part of your job? How did you come into your job? Why is Canadian football better then American football? What's your best story about your job? And, finally, what stadium has the best concessions?
I get to do something I love for work! Many days it doesn't seem like work. My dad reffed in the CFL for 16 years. I started reffing when I was 18 to earn some money for school, and then I fell in love with it. I love our rules that are different than the NFL....I love our kicking game and all the motion we have with our receivers. Too many great stories...be more specific. Montreal - I love the smoked meat!
Any stories involving celebrities? Calls you would have made but didn't? Any funny stories about off-field antics?
I have been fortunate to meet many of the halftime acts at Grey Cup, such as Shania Twain, Jim Cuddy, and the Black Eyed Peas.... There are calls I wish I would have made, for sure. Like any team, we have a bit of fun after the games and hang out together.
Do you like waffles? What was the most mind blowing play you've ever seen? Who do you think will win the cup?
I LOVE waffles. I butter them first and let it soak in, then load them up with REAL Maple Syrup. I reffed the 2005 Grey Cup and Anthony Calvillo actually threw the ball TWICE in one play in Overtime. I had never seen that before in my career. The team with the most points at the end of the game will win the Cup.
Does the crowd affect you at all when they boo you for "wrong" call?
I always thought that was cheering. :-) Seriously, we train ourselves to shut that out as best we can. It is hard to do. One thing it doesn't do is affect the calls we make.
What's your view on PI being a reviewable call this season? Do you think the enormous pause in the game is worth getting the right call?
PI is the hardest call for us to get right. There are so many variables to it. Reviewing these calls has helped us get some right that we made a mistake on. I think it is worth taking the time necessary to get these calls right - the penalty is huge.
Pass interference? Not reviewable in the NFL right?
No it is not
Correct, it is not reviewable in the NFL.
Obviously the referees are supposed to have a completely non-biased, neutral stance on every team in the league, but before you got into officiating, who was your favourite team?
I honestly never had one.....my dad reffed in the league when I was a kid, so I learned to cheer for the refs. I was lonely. :-)
Hey Glen, after being in the CFL field for long, do you feel it's the hardest sport to officiate? I know the NHL refs catch a lot of heat and in America, NBA refs catch a ton for being too soft. In your opinion, if football/CFL the toughest sport to call?
My other question, do you feel as a league, the rules are keep players safe? I've seen much more harder, bone crunching hits in the CFL than the current NFL rules would never allow.
I officiated pro baseball as well so have some experience with that sport. I think CFL football is very tough to officiate. There are many moving parts, so much area to cover, 24 players all within proximity to each other, and people running at full speed trying to make split second judgments. I think it is the hardest.
How prepared are CFL officials for extremely rare situations? For example, I don't think there has been a drop kick attempted in decades, but someone could try one any time; are you confident the officials would be able to spot that one had happened and rule on it correctly?
And for that matter, has anyone ever been called for a tandem block?
Extremely prepared. Our guys live and breath officiating. They meet during the offseason, they meet weekly during the season, I prepare film for them each week. The hardest part is recognizing it in a split second and pulling out your reaction that fast as well. We have called a Tandem Block, but it has been a while.
Is there somewhere we can see referee ratings? What is the process for dealing with blown calls or other obvious errors by the guys in stripes
No, but we do rate every official on every play in every game they ref. We develop internal rankings for them. I hold our officials accountable to meeting the standards we've set. The guys that rate out the best work more games as the season progresses. And the very best work the playoffs and the Grey Cup.
Earlier in the year you had said that the league may be putting out video examples of penalties akin to what you show the teams in training camp.
Has there been any further thought to this?
Yes, this is something we are working on. The more communication we can do to explain the game and the penalties, the better off we all are. We hope to do it in full force for next season.
Hi Glen, I've been a fan of the league for over a decade now.
It seemed at the start of this season, there were a lot more of the "could go either way" calls that were being flagged, and I know some commentators on TSN were quite vocal about it. After about week 7 or so (can't quite remember the exact game), it seemed the refs did a bit of an abrupt change back to letting the "tickytack-stuff" go for the most part.
I guess my question to you is, Did you take over the role this season with the intent of changing the ways games were called? Or was it just part of the fact that there are a few new crews working games, and they were just finding their way?
No, I didn't come in to change things and do it "my way". I came in trying to make things clearer to the officials and the clubs as to what we were going to call in order to be more consistent. As I've said before, the number of penalties that occur in the game are a shared responsibility between the clubs and the officials. I've tried to get us closer together on understanding how the game will be called.
Hi Glen, first off thanks for doing this.
This season there has been more penalties called on teams than in previous years. Is this because the referees are no longer being as lenient (turning a blind eye) or are players just being more undisciplined?
Happy to do this. I wouldn't have a job without you guys!! We train our officials to call a penalty when they see it. We set the standards for those penalties with the teams each year prior to the season. I hold my guys accountable to calling to those standards. As to why there are more, it is a shared responsibility between the officials and the players.
Hi Glen, I have another question. Ben Major made a comment that he's in support of referee's wearing helmets to protect themselves after he was injured by Kyries Hebert cleat. Is the CFL is looking in to this and is this something you would support?
We take the safety of our officials very seriously. We have been working with the Officials Association to make it safer for them. We have collectively decided to adjust their positioning a bit this year, but not to put equipment on them.
Thank you for taking the time out of your day to do this for us.
My question is about the common courtesy the players have for the refs on the field. Most players, especially in the CFL, hand the ball to the ref after making a play, but you'll sometimes see the ones who just toss it at the ref without looking or caring where it goes once it leaves their hand. While watching at home, this drives me nuts; do the refs care, or do they chalk it up to just the intensity of the game?
Note: I'm not talking about players tossing it TO the ref, I mean the ones who make no attempt and would rather showboat or whatever.
Bonus Question: Do the officials change their view on how much they "should" throw the flag when its the playoffs? (ie: more relaxed)
Good question. The refs chalk it up to the intensity and focus players have during the heat of the battle. They can't flip or throw it at an opponent, however. We don't change our standards during playoffs. Our approach is to call penalties when they happen, regardless of when they occur.
What was your favourite moment as a ref?
Hard to pick one.....I love the times when the game is on the line and I have to be at my best. My first game was awesome!! I will remember that forever....another one was the first time I got to be a ballboy and my Dad was a Referee on the field. That was cool.
I've noticed officials have a tendency to be freakishly over-prepared. E.g., keep an extra whistle in your bag just in case you forget your main whistle. And then bring a backup backup whistle just in case you have to use your backup whistle and forget to put another backup whistle in your bag. I worked with a guy who ended up bringing 4 flags to every game for this reason.
Do you find your need to be over-prepared creeping into your non-football life at all?
My kids think so! :-)
We're coming up on a full season since the reviewable pass interference experiment began. How have your crews, the teams, and the fans been responding to the implementation, and has that response changed any since preseason?
Our crews are fine with it. It hasn't changed how they officiate. At the beginning everyone has high hopes for change. I don't know that it is any different now. We are currently assessing how well it is going. Fans and teams are debating its success.
From a rules perspective, what's something from the NFL you think would help improve the CFL? Conversely, what's something from the CFL that you think would help improve the NFL?
It's not for me to tell the NFL what to do, but I sure love the fact in our game you have to field every kick and either run it back or decide to concede a point.
Has the rule committee every considered a change to the single point rule where a non-returnable ball does not count as a single point? For example team A punts the ball through the end-zone, or a missed FG sails through the end-zone. Basically perhaps a single point should only be rewarded if team b plays the ball, and is unable to exit their own end-zone. Has this ever been discussed?
It has definitely been discussed. Our Rouge is uniquely Canadian and I don't see it changing any time soon.
Mr. Johnson, since the season is drawing to a close what can you see that will change rules or officiating wise for next year?
We just started the process to look at potential rule changes for next year, so I don't know what is on the docket yet. We generally have a good sense in January what will be proposed.
Hi Glen, did you play football growing up? If so what position did you play.
I played a bit when I was younger, but stopped playing football to focus on hockey. I did like playing WR and being a Defensive Back.
Will CFL officials ever be hired full-time? I think they do a decent job but when you need other employment to make ends meet, it's hard to spend as many hours of the day reviewing performance and plays as you probably need to to maximize the accuracy rate. I'd love to see the CFL pay officials a living wage and help us to attract the very best talent and keep it. Thoughts?
It's an interesting idea. We discuss it from time to time at the league office and within the officiating community. The officials put in a ton of time and effort today to do the job. I'm not convinced it would improve the product on the field. Just FYI, the NFL's are part-time as well.
Good afternoon Glen Johnson, thanks for taking the time to do this :)
One of the issues I have with the CFL game right now involves QB sneaks into the end-zone. Once the offense gets the ball down to the 1 or 2 yard line it basically becomes impossible for the defense to have any chance of stopping the QB from gaining the 1-2 yards needed to score. Where I first started noticing this was in situations of defensive pass-interference in the end-zone (which results in an automatic first down on the 1-yard line). Defensive pass interference basically equals QB-sneak touchdown.
I would like to see the defense no longer have to give one full yard across the line of scrimmage once the ball is within the defenses own 5 yard line. What are your thoughts?
Interesting thought.....the one yard neutral zone is pretty fundamental to our game however. Not sure I would be a fan of that change.
Mr. Johnson, Sorry in advance for the difficult questions but please elaborate why the n word is banished but not the f word? The slur was directed at Bo Levi Mitchell earlier this year. Also, why is the CFL not more transparent with the list of banned words?
Thank you for helping make the CFL fun to watch!
The "f" word is not allowed. Sometimes the TV catches audio that the officials don't hear. But if an official had, it would have drawn a flag. There is no specific list but categories of words that are banned; all racial or ethnic slurs, anything to do with sexual orientation or religious affiliation.
Hey Glen! Thanks for taking our questions.
Has the CFL ever considered changing the "no yards" rules for punts? It seems it's being called more and more every season and to be honest, it seems like a hard rule to enforce accurately.
Also, are there any plans to make the discussion among officials more efficient? From a fans standpoint, it takes quite some time to sort out even simple, obvious infractions. The NFL (for comparison sake) seems to use a radio system to tell the head official the call and the call is made quickly.
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