Uniform, Equipment and Rule Book Adoption

History of the Uniform, Equipment and Rule Book Adoption

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As Prepared By Ron Hallock (December 2013) [last edited June 2023]

Uniform and Equipment

Since the inception of the MFOA a number of changes in the appearance of the official’s uniform have occurred.

Shirts and Jerseys

The striped shirt which ballooned out in the wind like a sail (favoured by Western CFL Officials in the 1950’s and 60's) was replaced by the striped jersey. Throughout the years many an equipment manager has faced the dilemma of finding a jersey with the proper sized stripe and the right material. Today, officials use both long and short sleeved jerseys.

Prior  to the late 1960’s, officials were identifiable only by the position they worked in a particular game. Today, each official wears an identifying number on the jersey’s back. There have been three changes in the numbers assigned to MFOA officials. The original set (produced by inmates at Stoney Mountain Penitentiary) started at number one. The current set starts at ten. In 1982, a policy was established that a number, once assigned to an official, shall remain that official’s while he or she is an active member of the Association. Numbers now range from 10 to 99. We reached 99 at the end of the 1991 season. Therefore, rookie numbers for 1992 included 11,12 etc. 


Gone are the days when an official went downtown to the Bay basement store to purchase a pair of white baker pants, cut off the legs below the knees and sew in an elastic to finish off the pant leg. Today, officials purchase specially tailored pants for football officiating.

In the early years of the MFOA, officials wore black pants for Bantam (now called Midget) and University of Winnipeg intramural games on Saturday mornings to ensure clean pants for Midget (now called Major) games in the afternoon. Prior to 2012, officials wore white knicker-style pants for all games. Since 2012, officials have instead worn regulation black pants with a white stripe on each leg.


The standard belt for officials is black leather. In the past, our Association has worn an alternating black and white leather link styled belt introduced by Bud Ulrich and also a similar knitted styled belt.

Stockings and Socks

Originally, stockings and socks were black, often a knee high or leotard, with a white sock worn over. This style in a one piece sock with black and white bottom were used by Eastern University crews and were required by officials assigned to the Vanier Cup.

Subsequently, MFOA officials and FOAs across Canada wore the CFL black stirrup stocking, with three white stripes over a white sock. Today, since the introduction of the black pant in 2012, officials wear black socks.


Originally, a solid black football shoe was worn. Identifying white markings on the shoe had to be dyed black. Today, white markings are permitted provided the basic shoe colour is black. The soles and cleats must correspond with the rule book requirements for players shoes. Prior to 2010, there was a requirement to have clean white shoe laces for every game. Since the 2010 season, black laces have been worn. 


In the early 1970’s, the MFOA officials' jacket was identical to CFL officials, a blue shell Adidas jacket with 3 white stripes running down each sleeve. Today all CFOA member associations have adopted a black jacket as official outerwear. The MFOA in 1988 adopted the current jacket with both the MFOA and CFOA crests at chest level, and the official’s number on the sleeve.


The style of hat worn by officials has varied from solid black or white to the current style white hat with black piping or black hat with white piping. Note that in 1960, hats cost $2.50. In 1961, to ensure all members had clean hats, each member was required to purchase a hat every season.

Prior to 1975, the MFOA officiating crew followed the CFL procedure of a black hat worn by the Referee and white hats worn by other members of the crew. The MFOA adopted a motion put forth by member Bob Toth to reverse this procedure. Since white hats got dirty, it was more economical and practical for only the Referee to wear a white hat. Today, all CFOA member associations follow this format and, starting in the 2019 season, the CFL adopted this format as well.

Other Apparel


In cold weather conditions, the MFOA policy allows officials to wear appropriately coloured toques, gloves and the official jacket, in addition to the regular uniform.


In the early 1980’s, MFOA officials working Junior League games, on hot summer days, wore white Adidas shorts with three blue stripes along the sides and knee high white socks with three black horizontal stripes near the top. Shorts had been restricted to officials working Junior games because a shortage of the style short chosen. The executive at the time, particularly Bob Turnbull and Ray Ariano, thought the shorts didn’t bring out the best of their knobby knees and sexy legs. They used supply shortage, rather than considering another style short, for saying that shorts weren’t popular, and abandoned their use. Shorts are used in many FOAs across Canada.

Today, the MFOA only wears shorts during flag football games.

Arm Band

Instead of a different hat to identify the Referee, during the 1960’s the Referee wore a red arm band similar to a hockey referee.

In respect for active members who passed away, the MFOA has worn a black arm band during the season. This occurred on two occasions: Ken Prodonick drowned while at Detroit Lakes during a vacation, and Jim Vokey drowned while fishing.

Whistles, Horns and Flags


Today, all members of an officiating crew have whistles to signal stoppages in play. Until 1968, only senior officials had whistles (usually the Referee, Umpire and Back Umpire). Other officials (sideline) raised their arms to signal a stoppage in play.

Until the late 1980’s, the whistle of choice was the Thunder. This whistle contained a pea-sized ball inside its chamber. On cold days, the ball tended to freeze to the walls of the chamber, producing a distinctive shriek.

In the late 1980’s, the Fox 40 Whistle was introduced. It eliminated the pea-sized ball in its design, and produced a shrill sound guaranteed to be heard over any crowd noise. Today, all officials use the Fox 40.


All officials were required to wear horns and use them to signal infractions occurring during a play. MFOA officials used a small horn attached to a strap worn on the wrist. Eastern officials had foot long horns which they carried in their hand during a game.

The CFL abandoned the use of horns and many FOAs across the country followed suit. In 1992, in the CFOA newsletter, CFOA president Ken Green described why horns are necessary. He concluded his justification for horn use with the following: ”We demand that players adhere to the rules of the game. Shouldn’t we expect the same of ourselves? I could go on ad infinitum with other reasons for the use of the penalty horn, but suffice to repeat, it’s a rule gentlemen, so let’s adhere to it.” The horns were gone shortly thereafter.


All field officials have a flag (once red, now orange) to mark the spot of a rules infraction. This rectangular cloth has a weight sewn in the center, usually a larger washer, to help reach the spot. That spot, for some officials, has been known to be fifty yards away. Sometimes, by accident of course, a ringing of the player’s helmet with the flag has indicated that an infraction has occurred.

Other Equipment

Bean Bag – used to mark spots such as the point a kick is received.

Downs Counter - placed on wrist and finger to help remember what down it is.

Watch - Umpire needs one for timing time outs and knowing when first half ended and when second half will start (duty to inform the Referee).

Clip - used in measurements and when moving  the yard sticks at the end of the first and third quarter.

Types of clips:

     a) Orange ribbon with clasp;                    

     b) Circular clip shows yardage where clip is attached;

     c) Rectangular cloth strip with or without yard markings.

Rule Book

The rule book used by amateur football in Manitoba is the Canadian Amateur Rulebook for Tackle Football, with various league variances for each particular league.

Rule books at one time were issued every second year in order to save costs. In 2008, format changes were made to have a larger size coiled book with space in margins to make notes.

The rule book for amateur football is written to emphasize player safety as the prime concern. First and foremost, safety should not be compromised and all other issues become secondary.

The rule books contain a code of ethics - developed to protect and promote the best interests of  the game. Its primary purpose is to clarify and distinguish ethical and approved professional practices from those which are detrimental. Its secondary purpose is to emphasize the purpose and value of football and to stress the proper functions of coaches in relation to schools, players and the public.