For its 2016 season, the Canadian Football League will add a video official with the authority to overturn obvious officiating errors, a dramatic acknowledgment of the so-called "HD Era" and an important test case for the National Football League.
The rule change was approved Thursday by the league's Board of Governors.
The new official will work from the CFL's officiating command center in Toronto and will monitor games via a dedicated video feed that will show all 24 players on the field. According to the league, the video official's mandate will be to "rapidly fix obvious errors that are not challengeable by replay."
In theory, the video official will help the CFL avoid instances in which fans watching at home have a better view of a play -- from HD feeds and super-slow motion -- than officials on the field and can see errors that go unaddressed during the game.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell noted that trend during a December interview with Sirius/XM radio. He said it was time for his league to understand and recognize that "we're seeing things we never saw before."
Goodell added: "You all as broadcasters, or the fans in general, get to see things, and we have to make sure our officials have access to that kind of technology in a way that's not overly disruptive to our game so that they can get the same type of input when they're making decisions and avoid those critical errors."
The CFL rule change is a first step toward tackling that problem.
The league provided the following example: If members of both the offensive and defensive lines jump into the neutral zone prior to the snap, the video official has the option to jump in and quickly tell the referee which team jumped first. Traditionally, on-field officials had no alternative but to rely on what they believed they saw in real time, often after a time-consuming conference.
Technological advances have placed officiating under increased scrutiny in sports around the world, an issue the CFL has addressed more aggressively than the NFL. Two years ago, it added defensive pass interference to its list of reviewable calls -- a foray into judgment calls that the NFL has thus far resisted. On Thursday, it expanded the list to include offensive pass interference and illegal contact, among others.
The CFL season opens in June.