December 19, 2012

The Road to Easy Street in the NFL

Filed under: National Football League — Giorgio Varlaro @ 3:40 am
Supplied via Google Images

Supplied via Google Images

When athletic contests are decided by the slimmest of margins, consumers of sport expect its leagues and officials to maintain autonomy through rules. When these rules cannot be implemented properly a sense of hypocrisy arises.

In the NFL, where most of its contests are decided by one possession, fans expect a level playing field to be administered on a more consistent basis. To do this, the NFL must divulge more of its resources into new technologies. This is not an easy task with the league employing 125 officials, but as the leader of television ratings in the United States, you’re required step up and maintain autonomy when it’s needed.

One aspect of the game, ball placement, is one which comes up numerous times throughout a contest. It decides the outcome of games in fact. A way to increase the efficiency of where the ball is placed is with Radio Frequency Identification Technology (RFID). RFID tags were implemented last year in European Rugby with resounding success. Due to the similar nature in which the ball is moved in the field of play, RFID tags could have the same success in the NFL.

Where the device would be located is in the football itself, just like the rugby ball. According to engineers this would be an easy transition since three-dimensional object tracking is done every day and it’s easy to set up. A few high-speed cameras carefully positioned around the end zones and some ball-tracking software can get the job done making first downs calls, touchdowns and field goals easy to handle.

At this stage, introducing additional technology for NFL officials is more a business problem than anything else. It takes financial incentives and, ideally, league backing to turn entertainment, military, aerospace and other technologies into systems suitable for sports.

Furthermore, the new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association provides for a Technology Committee. The committee would meet at least once a year to discuss effective ways to utilize technology to improve the game. The Technology Committee would give officials a greater voice in what is needed on the field and what might work best, but all final decisions still rest with NFL owners.



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