Beginning in 2016, the National Football League and the Canadian Football League have announced that they have formed the NFL-CFL Officiating Development Program.

The program will send a group of NFL officials — primarily deep wing officials (side judges and field judges) — to work as part of CFL crews during preseason and regular-season games in June and July. The officials will return to the NFL before the 2016 season begins at the league’s annual officiating clinic in late July.

To prepare for their time in the CFL, NFL officials will attend a four-day CFL officiating training camp in Toronto to get acclimated with the league’s rules. The NFL officials joining CFL crews will have one-to-three years of NFL experience or will be switching to a new position in the NFL for the upcoming season.

CFL officials will join the NFL’s Officiating Development Program, which is designed to train top officials in all aspects of NFL officiating. The program includes attending NFL minicamps and training camps, officiating preseason games, studying position-specific film with veteran NFL officials, reviewing mechanics and analyzing rules differences between the NFL and other leagues, including the CFL and college football.

Learn how NFL programs develop officials at every level. 

“Any time our newer officials can get more reps on the field, during practices or games, that will make them better officials,” said NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino. “The collaboration with the CFL will certainly benefit us as we prepare for the 2016 season and we look forward to welcoming our CFL officiating counterparts to our development program later this spring.”

“Sending deep wing officials makes the most sense because their NFL responsibilities most closely align with CFL rules,” Blandino said. “There are more differences in our league’s line of scrimmage rules.”

“This historic partnership gives officials in both leagues an opportunity to hone their craft and get better through shared development activities and more snaps at the pro level,” said CFL Senior Vice-President of Football Glen Johnson. “We’re excited that a group of our officials will actively participate in the NFL Development Program and now have a formal path forward to be considered as prospects in their league.”

The NFL has hired officials from the CFL before. Super Bowl XLIX referee Bill Vinovich worked in the CFL for five years before joining the NFL in 2001.