Between the lines blog: Assigning officials for playoff and championship games
Photo credit: James Hajjar
By Ron Hallock, Special to Football Canada
Just like players and coaches, officials have big dreams to begin each season. They not only hope to perform well enough to make the playoffs, but they strive to reach the championship game.
When approached to write about how officials are selected for playoff contests, I proceeded to ask fellow officials, FOA executives and elite league Referee in Chiefs about the criteria used to make these big game selections.
The overall comments indicated that for the individual official being selected for playoff and championship games signified a recognition of their on-field performance. As new officials progress, the top performers are identified and rewarded for their progress by working their first playoff game. As they continue to progress, they work towards additional playoff experience and ultimately being selected for championship games.
At the FOA level, there are a number of factors that are considered. Retention and recognition of an official’s development and dedicated service play a role in playoff assignments.
First year officials are given first-round playoff assignments in the leagues they performed the best in that year. Officials in their first couple of years are also given stick crew assignments in league finals and championship games to gain exposure to these games and the way crews that are selected perform under the intensity of these games. Hence newer officials are provided with a learning experience to promote their development.
For more seasoned officials there is a blend of recognition of the year’s performance and recognition of dedicated service of the official. Retention is a factor in an association and assignments must recognize the up and coming official allowing him/her to further develop and the veteran official for providing leadership and strong officiating performance.
The MFOA, of which I am a proud member, has a policy that has officials not work the same finals every year. This allows opportunities for all officials to have the chance to work the prime championship games.
At the elite level, U Sports (e.g. CANWEST) and Junior (e.g. PFC), the Referee in Chief and the local supervisor(s) work together in the nomination and selection of officials assigned to those leagues for playoff games. There are number of criteria that decide the selection. One in the junior league is no official from the participating teams’ cities will be involved. In U Sports (CIS), for bowl games, there is a four-year rotation of positions which may affect the selection of an official. An example is that a referee has to wait four years for an opportunity. They also need to work a bowl game before being selected to the Vanier Cup. The final factor that must be considered is the blending of up and coming prospects for elite level games and the recognition of long-time dedicated and excellent officiating by veteran officials. These big games are often career ending achievement rewards for an excellent officiating career.
In summation, for the players, coaches and officials the achievement of playoff and championship games is recognition of hard work and development of everyone’s skills. Each game is the World Championship, Grey Cup, or Super Bowl to those involved and maybe one day your local official will reach those rights.
About the author
Ron Hallock is a Manitoba Football Officials Association (MFOA) life member, Canadian Football Officials Association (CFOA) executive, Football Canada Rules Committee Chair and a member of the Officials development committee.
This post is also available in: French