On Wednesday afternoon, National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell addressed an email to NFL fans discussing efforts to speed up the sport and improve the experience for fans watching games in the stadium and at home on television. The email addressed a number of efforts to make the experience better, both with timing rules in the game itself as well as by cutting back on the number of commercial breaks in each contest.
One of the prominent proposals is to “meaningfully reduce down time and the frequency of commercial breaks.” This will require action in conjunction with the television networks that broadcast the sport, but as the email noted, it was a major negative factor in the feedback that the league received from its fans prior to last season.
Other adjustments involve the implementation of the play clock after extra points when there is no commercial break before the kickoff, standardizing certain timing rules and halftimes, and potentially including a play clock after touchdowns as well.
Perhaps the most significant proposal for the quality of the game (rather than the time it takes) is to centralize replay reviews at the league office. This is a concept borrowed from the NHL, which conducts reviews of any contested goal at that league’s office in Toronto and then communicates decisions to the referees in the arena.
The NFL proposal involves the following:
Instead of a fixed sideline monitor, we will bring a tablet to the Referee who can review the play in consultation with our officiating headquarters in New York, which has the final decision. This should improve consistency and accuracy of decisions and help speed up the process.
As the league notes, having a single set of review officials making the final decision should improve the interpretation of the rules and lead to more consistent replay decisions.