NFL Taking Steps to Improving Fan Experience with Under-the-Hood Referee Replays

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2012

Referee Tony Corrente reviews an Oakland  play challenge on the monitor as the Oakland Raiders defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 20 to 13 at McAfee Coliseum, Oakland, California, October 29, 2006. (Photo by Robert B. Stanton/NFLPhotoLibrary)
Robert B. Stanton/Getty Images

NFL fans that attend games in the 2012 season will get to view the same replay referees are viewing under the hood via the large video boards in all 32 NFL stadiums, according to ESPN.com.

This is yet another step the NFL is taking in an attempt to improve on the lackluster fan experience at stadiums. It comes at a time when watching a game at home is not only cheaper, but a drastically better experience thanks to the better visibility, replays and lack of a sometimes hostile environment. 

The NFL is attempting to listen to fans in a time when the league is grappling with mediocre ticket sales and consistent blackouts from certain teams. 

Despite easing up on blackout rules this offseason, the threat is still there, which does nothing but hurt the NFL. Making the in-stadium experience better could drastically reduce blackouts across the league.

The new replay system is the latest step in revisions to the stadium experience and response to fan feedback overall. Last season, the NFL instituted a rule that made every scoring play instantly reviewable by replay regardless of a challenge. 

These changes are a good sign for NFL fans. As Rick McKay, the chairman of the NFL competition committee points out (via ESPN), listening to the fans is something everyone involved with the NFL is set on doing moving forward:

I think this is another example of the league listening to its fans about what they want from the in-game experience . . . I think throughout this edition of replay, the league, the teams and our broadcast partners have done a nice job of using the available technology to make the game better and make the experience better for the fans.

Before this replay rule was implemented, each stadium had the option of showing the replay to the crowd or not, resulting in some home teams only showing replays that favored the home team. 

The new replays will make the in-game experience closer to that of viewing the game at home. It also puts even more pressure on officials to get calls right because the crowd now has full access to the same replay and will know if a referee got a call wrong. 

In the end, this is a step in the right direction for the NFL. It is not a reduction in ticket, parking or concession prices, but it is positive, albeit tiny, step toward improving the fan experience overall.