How does a referee control a football game? Dave Foxcroft: We don't 'we let the game come to us and keep it as calm as possible'

By Pepper Parr

November 22. 2022



It was a cliff hanger of a game right up until the last few seconds.

Two teams that had played just once before in the season were on the field to decide who would take the Grey Cup home.

Recognition that the football field was on traditional treaty lands was read by RoseAnne Archibald,  Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

In the middle of it all is the senior referee, Dave Foxcroft, supported by a crew of seven plus a number of people who are in instant communication with him – that bud in his ear and the microphone at his mouth make the smooth running of a game possible.

How long has Dave been doing this? He will tell you that he referees because he was never a very good player plus the money is pretty good.
His first job as a referee was back when he was a 14 year old student at M M Robinson high school and was paid $25 a game which was very good money for an hours work. He worked basketball to start and moved into football when an opportunity came his way.

His Dad, Ron Foxcroft was an internationally recognized basketball referee. Dave was getting great mentoring.

Checking whether the coin to be tossed to determine who gets possession of the football first is something the players want to see first hand.

Dave can still remember that first football game in 2000 – Calgary was playing Edmonton.  In 2010 he was made the Head Referee. He has been at it ever since and last weekend ran the 109th Grey Cup game during which the only time he ever felt nervous was during the official coin toss that was done by Assembly of First Nations RoseAnne Archibald.

“The coin I was given was something I had never seen before. I wasn’t sure which was head and which was tail” said Foxcroft.

“Everyone in the country was watching. I decided which was which, the coin got tossed and the game began.. That was a ‘sweaten it’ moment for me.”

This was tight game from beginning to end”, said Foxcroft.

A fumble and there is referee Dave Foxcroft right in the middle

There were a couple of calls I had to make, one on a fumble and another on un-sportsman like conduct.

“What cannot be tolerated is any abusive behaviour. What the audience sees on the field is what they take away and apply in their own local leagues” said Foxcroft

Asked how the referee can control a game Foxcroft said: “You can’t – you have to let the game come to you. The biggest job is to be a calming influence and let the players know you are going to be fair and expect a high standard of behaviour from the players.

Foxcroft works at not letting the sport consume him. “I work hard not to become obsessive. I have a full time job with Fox 40 where I managing Fox 40’s Global Sales, Marketing and Operations and oversee the development of the company’s diverse, innovative product base and strategic acquisitions.

The CFL has been around for a long time and now has leadership that thinks in terms of growing into an international organization.

The first Canadian to officiate at an NFL game

“We have a very decent following in the United States. And we play a different game of football – in Canada the kicking game makes us very different.
Foxcroft has the distinction of being the first Canadian to officiate at an NFL game
During the games Foxcroft is getting reports from a number of people. Everyone is plugged into “refcom” – the communications system that ties everyone together.

There is the instant play team member; there is the player injury team member and there is the person who sees the game at a different level. I see the game from a down on the field level. During the Grey Cup game two of those people were working from Toronto.

The two teams on the field last Sunday had only played each other once before during the season.

While the CFL is a national organization – sports and referring is still small town stuff for Dave Foxcroft. While he was in high school he referred a game in which Josh Ross was playing. Ross was part of the half time entertainment during the 109th Grey Cup game.

Dave Foxcroft treasures moment like that.

When a season comes to an end there are all kinds of events for the winners. Parades, dinners and award events.
Will Foxcroft attend ? No he said the folks in Winnipeg would not take kindly to seeing me in a parade held for the Argonauts.

Photographs courtesy of the Canadian Football League

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