Major League Lacrosse Introduces Instant Replay in 2013

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Major League Lacrosse announced today that they will be introducing Instant Replay to the league in 2013. The move goes against the grain of other field lacrosse leagues, but is consistent with many professional leagues, like the NLL, NFL and NHL. In a press release, the league cited players’ requesting the change as the major impetus behind the rule change:

Players expressed interest in creating an instant replay system and the idea was approved by the MLL Board of Managers this summer.

The specifics of the rule can be seen below, at the bottom of the post, and the league really goes in-depth on the rule, and makes it available, which is great to see. The Instant Replay in the MLL will be VERY similar to instant replay in the NFL, but in the case of the MLL, it will only apply to goals scored.

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Do we really need Instant Replay in the MLL?

How IR eventually plays out in the MLL is one thing, and the potential is definitely there for it to be a good thing. But right now, directly on the heels of this announcement, I have a bunch of pretty serious questions to ask! Of course I do…

The BIG Questions:

1) Is Instant Replay Actually Needed? I’ve seen a lot of MLL games at this point, and I’m not sold that there are really enough questionable calls to make this worth while. Sure, the occasional 2-pointer might be called a 1, and vice versa, and yes, guys might be scoring goals once in a while where they go in the crease a bit early… but is this really such a big issue that Instant Replay was required? I guess I just don’t remember that many game-changing missed calls… but then again, I’m not a player in the MLL, and they are the ones who seemingly requested it.

2) Can the league afford to do Instant Replay? It seems like IR has to add some sort of cost to the league, or to the teams, or to the crew filming the game. Yes, it makes the league seem more professional because of an added bell/whistle, but is it really worth it? I’m curious how much this technology advance will cost, and if this money couldn’t be spent better somewhere else?

3) Will it even work? Games that are broadcast with multiple camera angles could definitely use instant replay, but when it’s limited to one or two cameras and an feed, I’m not so sure that the camera angles will be there. There is a caveat in the rule that says challenges won’t count if the machinery malfunctions… so is that something we could expect to see regularly?

4) Won’t this slow down the fastest game? If coaches get challenges each game, they will probably use them. How many NFL coaches hold onto all their challenges most games? Exactly. Instant Replay slows down the game, provides more break in play, and as we’ve seen in other leagues, doesn’t always result in much changing.

Disagree with any of my points? Have some of your own to make? Check out some ANONYMOUS MLL players’ thoughts, and then check out the FULL rules below and sound off in the comments section!

ANONYMOUS current and former MLL players’ thoughts:

– No objections. It goes both ways; you win some, you lose some challenges, but it definitely adds another interesting dynamic to the MLL. I think it’s been great so far in NLL.

– Game is slow as is. If we are only talking about crease violations, then I’d say bag it. [It is a] terrible fan experience when a team calls a time out with 9:05 left in the quarter and we go to a TV timeout.  Then the next stoppage is at 8:55 and we have another tv timeout.

– It’s the correct move, in my opinion, to be proactive. Contrast the success of the NFL vs MLB. Baseball is handcuffed by tradition, and the MLL should take note.

– I think it is great… Especially since I have both scored a goal that did not count and also witnessed a top ten highlight of a goal against us that never crossed the goal line.

– My initial thought is that the dive that will suffer the most. Issues of contact with the goalie, etc. could come into play. 2 pointers? I didn’t realize there were a whole lot of mistakes or questions with those calls. Maybe a few a season? But probably not many that are game changers, e.g. questionable in a one point game. My biggest concern is that it will elongate games. The TV delays and holds throughout the course of a game are already annoyingly and painfully long. Stoppage for replays would make it worse.

– My initial thought is that if it makes the MLL game any longer than it already is, then it is a bad idea.

– I can only think of 1 case this year when our team truly believed a ball crossed the line and the refs missed it. I don’t think it will be a huge game changer but I think it’s wonderful to have this technology at their disposal. Maybe they’ll add a slow-mo camera at every game and it will create better production value for broadcasts.

– I love it for the veracity of the game, and when such important goals hinge on such quick decisions by refs, but I sincerely hope it doesn’t slow the game too much.  I play in the NLL and often the replay reviews take FOREVER.  As long as they have it dialed in and efficient and maybe with a time limit, I think it will be great for close calls.

– I think it’s great for the league – the technology is here and it is easy to use. Why not use it? The athletes are so big, fast and athletic nowadays and the league is so physical that it’s almost impossible for the officials to see everything… especially on the bang bang plays around the crease. You hate to see an outcome of a  game be made by a missed call and if the refs have the ability to check and correct a mistake – I think it’s a win – win for the league.

– I honestly do not think it will make a difference. Think about how many times throughout a game when there is actually a play that should be reviewed… maybe 1, if that? I think it is only going to slow the game down. For a sport that is trying to become spectator-friendly and build a fan base, I don’t think this is the direction they want to go at this time.

Seems like the players have a diverse set of feelings on the new rule! Great perspective from the guys who shared. Thanks for the input, fellas!

Major League Lacrosse Limited Instant Replay Rules:

  1. Instant replay will be used via a challenge system by the teams.
  2. Each team will be provided up to two challenges per game during regulation time
    1. If a challenge is unsuccessful, a team is charged a timeout.
    2. If the challenge is successful there is no timeout charged.
    3. If a team is out of timeouts they are not allowed to issue a challenge.
    4. If a team attempts a challenge without a timeout, they will be given a delay of game penalty and their challenge will not be reviewed.
  3. If, in the discretion of the head official, due to a technical error involved in the replay system no visual evidence is available upon to which to base a review, the challenging team will not be charged a timeout or a challenge. Examples include a) malfunctioning replay equipment and b) the available camera angles completely miss the action being challenged (such as the player shooting a two-point shot is completely out of the frame). This is a much higher standard to meet than a mere “lack of visual evidence” when reviewing a play.
  4. In overtime periods, one team challenge is available.

Steps to Challenge

1. Flag
a. Each head coach will be provided a red challenge flag prior to the start of the game.

  1. Only the head coach can throw the challenge flag.
  2. In the case of a player/head coach, or if the head coach has been ejected from the game or is otherwise unavailable, one of the team’s assistant coaches “in front of the boards” shall be responsible for throwing the challenge flag.

2. Challenging a called scoring play: process for overturning a goal or changing the value of a credited goal

a. If a goal is scored and a team wishes to challenge, the must throw its challenge flag on the field and have it seen by one of the four officials prior to the ensuing face off taking place.

  1. If the challenge of a goal takes place at a break (TV timeout, quarter break, and end of game) then the challenging team will have a maximum of 30 seconds to issue their flag for the play to be reviewed. This 30- second time limit will be monitored by the head official.
  2. If play resumes without an official seeing the thrown challenge flag, then the flag will be picked up and the play will not be reviewed.
  3. If the challenge flag is thrown after play resumes it will be picked up and the play will not be reviewed.

3. Challenging a non-scoring play: process for awarding a goal that was not called a goal on the field

a. The challenging team must throw its flag prior to the next stoppage in play. At the next stoppage the challenge will be reviewed.

  1. If the next stoppage in play comes as a result of a goal and the challenge is affirmed, then the goal that was scored which lead to the stoppage in play will be disallowed.
  2. If the next stoppage in play comes as a result of a penalty and the challenge is affirmed, then the penalty will still be served.

b. Exception: If the play being challenged specifically results in a stoppage in play, for example, a shot goes through the net and directly out of bounds, then the challenge must be made prior to the ensuing restart

4. Officials review

a. The head official will pick up the flag and ask the head coach specifically what portion of the scoring play (or play where a score was not awarded) the team is challenging.

b. The head official will go to the monitor at the scorer’s table and review the play through reviews provided by the television production team

i. If any member of either team approaches the head official while at the scorer’s table at any point once the review process has begun (head official arrives at the monitor to view the play), or attempts to watch the monitor while the review process is in progress, the team in violation will be given a one minute non-releasable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

c. The head official will have no more than 90 seconds once he reaches the monitor to review the play.

i. TV will have the option during this review period of taking a TV timeout even if the play doesn’t occur at a normal commercial break. If the break is taken it will replace the next official TV break in play.

Overturning a call

  1. The call that is made on the field will stand as originally called unless the head official views indisputable evidence that the original call (or non-call) was incorrect.
  2. In the case of a non-scoring play where a team is challenging that it should have been credited with a goal, if an official’s whistle had blown prior to the ball crossing the plane of the goal (e.g. on a crease violation or inadvertent whistle), then a goal shall not be awarded, but the challenging team will not be charged a timeout and will be awarded possession of the ball five yards from the midfield line in the center of the field in its offensive side, with a shot clock reset.


  1. In the NFL 2009 regular season, NFL coaches used a total of 328 of the 2048 challenges available. That’s an average of less than 11 challenges per coach, so on average a coach doesn’t use any challenges in about 1/3rd of his games. Of course, coaches tend to challenge a lot, and others almost never, but it’s a very rare game when all four (or more, depending) challenges get used.

    On the other hand, the thing you didn’t point out about the NFL (and NCAA football) is that, as time has gone by, more and more plays are reviewed “in the booth”, and coaches don’t get a chance to challenge them. That’s the trend you want to think about for the MLL.