SBJ/March 10-16, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Locker room cameras still lacking fans in NFL

Last NFL offseason, locker room cameras were hyped as one of the big in-stadium enhancements for 2013. Visions of fans being able to see on video boards coaches offering halftime encouragement quickly met reality, though, as many teams ultimately used the cameras only to show players walking down the tunnel to the field before the game — if they used them at all.

Don’t expect that to change any time soon.

“It’s a complicated issue for those of us who want to win,” said New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, chuckling, when asked why only two of 32 teams (Seattle and St. Louis) showed footage in the stadium at halftime from the locker rooms in 2013.

Kraft’s comment echoes what others have said previously: Coaches and players do not want what they consider their inner sanctum televised. Kraft did say he has his head coach, Bill Belichick, comfortable with the idea now — but that’s not to say new coverage should be immediately expected.

Dallas Cowboys Chief Operating Officer Stephen Jones said at a SportsBusiness Journal/Daily conference last fall that coaches were not comfortable with the camera plans, a point the league has contested. Jones was unavailable for comment, but team spokesman Rich Dalrymple said Jones still believes halftime footage is problematic because of coaching resistance.

Kansas City Chiefs President Mark Donovan, a member of the league’s fan-experience committee, predicted it could be three to four years before teams become comfortable enough to show footage from halftime. Part of the issue, he said, is figuring out how to present a halftime feed that likely has no audio, and doing so in a way that is enticing to fans. Teams are concerned that if audio is aired from the locker room at halftime, it could betray competitive secrets.

“We won’t do audio at halftime,” Donovan said, “so how good is it?”

The Chiefs and Patriots were among roughly half the league’s teams that showed in-stadium footage of the locker room last year, but only before the game, not from halftime.

The NFL this offseason is expected to unveil several new initiatives in the continuing quest to offer something at venues that competes with or even trumps at-home viewing. Details on those coming developments were not available, so it’s unclear if it could mean changing the rules on how the locker room cameras are used. Currently, the league requires only that teams have them in the locker room, not that they actually be used.

Most teams contacted in recent weeks said it was premature to talk about how they might use cameras, or not, in the 2014 season.

New York Jets President Neil Glat said the Jets would study whether to expand their camera use from last season’s pregame adoption — but, he added, “I wouldn’t say anything is imminent.”

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