Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New officiating czar brings change

CFL's Johnson on tour to explain new measures

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They know they're far from perfect.

But the new vice-president of CFL officiating says new measures are being put in place to ensure the guys that CFL fans love to hate -- the officials -- will be better in 2014.

Glen Johnson -- a CFL official for 24 years, the last 17 as a head referee -- told a briefing of reporters in Winnipeg on Wednesday the CFL is putting in place a number of new measures for the upcoming season they hope will make officials more accurate in their penalty calling and hold them more accountable when they do make mistakes.

Among the changes:

-- Improved and streamlined grading of every call by every official after every game;

-- The best officials will work more games;

-- An end to the "crew" system;

-- Better use of online capabilities as a teaching tool for officials.

Johnson's revelation the league is doing away with the crew system -- in which the same group of officials work the same games from week to week -- had been rumoured over the winter and had become a matter of some controversy, with some critics suggesting doing away with a familiar team approach will make officiating worse, not better.

Not so, says Johnson.

"I felt over the years having worked under that model that sometimes we would get a little complacent... We may have not prepared as much," said Johnson. "We're hoping moving away from crews actually gives us more cross-pollination of capability and working styles and ultimately we get better as a group because of that."

Johnson retired as a referee over the winter to take over as the league's head of officiating, a job that became suddenly vacant when the last man to hold it -- Tom Higgins -- quit over the winter to become the new head coach of the Montreal Alouettes.

Johnson was in Winnipeg Wednesday, meeting with Bombers management and coaches as part of a pre-season swing through all the CFL cities. He is discussing changes being put in place for the new season and giving teams an idea of what they can expect from the league's officials this year.

Johnson said he spoke to the Bombers coaches and management for 31/2 hours on Wednesday.

"We're just trying to get us all on the same page -- making sure we all understand each other's interpretations of the rules, of the standards to those rules, of how we're going to interpret them and how we're going to apply them."

While the best CFL officials have always been rewarded with plum playoff assignments, Johnson said he will be moving to a new system in 2014 that will reward the best officials all season long.

"The guys who are rating out higher will work more games," said Johnson. "In the past, sometimes their performance really wouldn't affect their assignments until later in the year towards the playoffs.

"What I want to do is bring that closer to the regular season. So we're going to go on shorter cycles in assigning games.

"And the people that are doing the best are just going to work more."

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 1, 2014 0

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