The first game of the NFL’s annual excursion to London was played out yesterday when the Miami Dolphins succumbed to a 14-27 defeat the New York Jets at Wembley Stadium.
The first divisional showdown played at Wembley could set new ground in paving the way for bigger matches to be played overseas, with the league experimenting with earlier kick-off times and trying to sell out Wembley on back-to-back weeks later in October.
The NFL is undoubtedly the fastest growing sport in the UK with Sky Sports’ coverage expanding even greater this year, including sending reporters around all 32 franchises in early-September for NFL 32 Live, emulating a similar concept it used for all 92 English league clubs in August.
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Another bonus is terrestrial channel BBC taking on all three Wembley fixtures, the Superbowl and a weekly highlights programme that will begin in November, expanding the exposure of the sport to those who aren’t subscribed to Sky Sports.
With the NFL now underway, here are five things that football could take its American counterparts:
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Video replays & challenges
The NFL has been the king of video replays since 1986, although the system currently used only started in 1999, whereas football, despite constant demand, hasn’t adopted it.
Obviously, the two games are different in that American football is very staggered and has a lot of stoppages allowing time for replays, whereas association football is a free flowing and faster game.
NFL coaches, though, can challenge two plays per half, whilst every scoring and turnover play has a mandatory review from the officials - this is a system that should be considered for football.
Week in, week out, there are numerous contentious decisions made regarding offside calls, penalty claims and even something so basic as a standard foul.
It seems almost ridiculous that while a supporter in a stadium can receive a text from a friend watching the same game at home telling him them that offside had been incorrectly given, match officials are exposed to no such help and have to rule solely by their own discretion, bar the use of goal-line technology.
If each manager had one challenge per half on select incidents, football would have a far greater success rate at getting the big calls right.
The ease of such a process is what makes it all-the-more bewildering that video replays haven't been implemented sooner - how long does it really take for a referee to pause a game, refer to a colleague behind the scenes and dissect what the correction decision is? A minute, maybe?
It really wouldn’t eat up as much time as most people think it would and there could be no arguments afterwards.
There's a great belief that the best way to watch the NFL is through Redzone on Sunday evenings.
Hosted by the delightfully charming and informative Scott Hanson, it cycles through every game that’s near a scoring position but also shows all the biggest incidents and explains them in terms that can be interpreted by the newest fan.
It’s a perfect mix of Match of the Day and Gillette Soccer Saturday, and although the BBC, Sky Sports and BT Sport have all copied the concept for midweek and some FA Cup games, the law against showing live matches at 3pm on Saturday prevents it being used.
The law is there to prevent attendances from dipping, with the thought that games being shown on TV would lead to dwindling audiences, but with the internet and accessibility of watching live streams online, perhaps it’s time for a rule change.
Since Sky bought the rights to the Premier League in 1992, the amount of live matches has only gotten greater and attendances haven’t suffered - in fact, football is more popular than ever and as a result, showing the best bits of live 3pm games would far from put off those who enjoy attending football matches.
Like video replays, the idea of having officials mic’d up isn’t new given that rugby have similarly taken on this concept.
Again, football hasn’t experimented with a microphone on the referee since Arsenal captain Tony Adams was heard calling referee David Elleray a “cheat” in 1989.
However, it’s time to try and bring it back - but use a similar method used in the NFL. After a foul/penalty is given, the official will tell the fans in attendance and the TV cameras at home why he’s given that penalty, who it’s against and what will happen next.
Too often in football, fans are up in arms because they don’t know why a referee has given a penalty. If the information about why a foul has been given was somewhat relayed to the crowd and to the viewer at home, though, maybe fans and players would be a lot less incensed.
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