Canadian Football Rule Books

The Hall of Fame Archives and Library still has yet to respond to my enquiries on this subject, so please consider this a work in progress. I am always interested in any rule books, pre-1966 especially, if anyone is trying to clear them off their bookshelves.

Rule books of Canadian football have existed since the earliest organisation of Rugby Football Unions in the 1880s, a couple of those from this decade now being available on microfiche reproductions. The following lists those available from Canadian Institute for Heritage Microreproductions (CIHM):

The Foot Ball Association of Canada, Organized 1873: Rules, Rugby Union
Montreal: Gazette, 1876. Filmed from an original in the National Library of Canada (NLC) (Preserv. AC901 P3 no. 0334; 8 pp., 15 cm.) CIHM no. 28296.
Link to transcription below.

Rules of the Rugby Union Game of Football: as adopted by the Canadian Rugby Football Union, September 14th, 1880.
Ottawa: Citizen, 1882. Filmed from an original in the NLC (Preserv. AC901 P3 no. 1384; 11 pp., 15 cm.) CIHM no. 00946, ISBN 0665009461
Link to transcription below.

Constitution and Laws of the Game: Canadian Rugby Football Union
1884, with adendum 1886. Filmed from an original in the NLC (Preserv. A901 P3 no. 1386; 16 pp., 13 cm.) CIHM no. 00945, ISBN 0665009453
Link to transcription below.

Constitution, by-laws, rules of the game and schedule: Canadian Intercollegiate Rugby Football Union, 1910
Ottawa Printing Co, 1910. Filmed from an original in the National Archives of Canada (53 pp., 15 cm.) CIHM no. 99753, ISBN 0665997531

Pre-war CRU rule books in public collections

Pre-war CRU rule books are not often encountered, as most were discarded as the rules were updated annually; this problem is further compounded by the use in some years of rather acidic paper, which has deteriorated quite badly in some specimens. The Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton has most CRU rule books from 1910 onward in their library; these may be inspected in person, or one of the Hall of Fame staff can research an enquiry (both for a fee). A few other copies of old rule books are held in public collections, as listed below.

A transcription of the 1909 CRU Rules is appended to Frank Cosentino's 1969 book Canadian Football: The Grey Cup Years, along with memoranda relating to the application of the forward pass, 1929 and 1931.

Consititution and official playing rules of the Canadian Rugby Union: 1923 Season (Toronto: Soole Printing; 64 pp., 18 cm)
Held by National Library of Canada, Preserv. GV945 .9 C3 C36 1923

Constitution and Official Playing Rules of the Canadian Rugby Union: 1930 season (Kingston: Jackson Press, 120pp., 10.50 cm x 17.0 cm)
Held by Toronto Reference Library, 796.33306 C12 (Closed stacks; access by request)
Red card covers; formal, non-pictorial cover. Includes constitutions of the member unions (CIRFU, IRFU, ORFU, QRFU, WCRFU, WCIRFU).

The "paper" on which the earlier rule books were printed will now likely be experiencing significant problems with deterioration because of high acid content; anyone holding copies from prior to 1910 would be encouraged to consult with a paper conservator regarding deacidification of the paper if your copy is experiencing such problems. The heritage vaule of some of these items ought not to be underestimated: there is a strong possibility that some surviving copies of some years between 1884 and 1910 are now unique.

1948 CRU Rule Book

1956 (right) and 1958 CRU Rule Books.

From 1948 onward, rule books were printed by Spalding and supplied free of charge to sporting goods dealers and the CRU (and later CFL) as part of their contract as being the official maker of virtually all game balls in the Dominion. Until the end of the 1950s, the rules printed were under the mark of the Canadian Rugby Union; by 1960 the upstart CFL had received equal billing, although CRU--in which the CFL had about two-thirds of the votes--still had nominal power over the contents. All rule books I have seen dated up to and including 1966 list the CRU playoff results back to 1892.

1960 CRU and CFL Rule Book.

The Rule Book of the CFL was entirely re-written in 1966, vastly reducing its length and considerably increasing its cohesiveness. The code of rules as accepted immediately prior to the re-codification were an incoherent and disorganised jumble, effectively a rule book that had been added to for well over half a century with little regard given to logical order.

1966 CFL and CRU Rule Book.
The final year of issue under the old codification. An identical cover was used in 1964

Early post-war rule books are smaller in dimensions , perhaps intended as pocket references for the on-field officials (although with the nonsensical codification, it would have taken a few minutes for all but the most experienced referee to figure out where any particular rule was referenced.) The books were updated annually, and, soon after the recodification of the rules, were increased to the size of normal media guides.

CFL and CAFA Rule Book.
The "helmet" CFL logo was substituted the following year.

The CFL and CRU (later Canadian Amateur Football Association) used the same rule book through 1973, following which date the CAFA adopted the parallel rules being used in intercollegiate football. Intercollegiate rule books had appeared sporadically from c. 1910 through the 1920s, but were being published annually again by 1962. The exact scope of the earlier intercollegiate rule books is not clear, as there appears to be no systematic archival set of them.

CFL 1976 Rule book.
This cover design continued through 1984.

Spalding's last CFL rule book was issued in 1984, following which the regulations became part of the league's Facts Figures and Records annual. By 1991, the need for a separate rule book was again recognised, and the CFL has printed them annually since that date; a different cover design has been utilised each year, and at present these will be ignored for the sake of time; copies are ususally available for most years since 1991 from the Canadian Football Hall of Fame Gift Shop for about $1.00 per copy.

Rule Book Specifications

1876 Canadian Foot Ball Association Rugby Rules

The earliest surviving Canadian Rugby Football rule code to my knowledge.

1882 CRFU Rules

This transcription has been made as a cut-and-paste of the above code with revisions inserted; punctuation is not presented as it is in the original, and this is provided purely as a reference to the rule changes between 1876 and 1882.

1884 CRFU Constitution and Rules

A transcription of an 1884 Rule book (with addendum from 1886), taken from a microfiche copy of an original held by the National Library of Canada.

Last updated: 19 July 2001
This page maintained by Ian Speers
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