The NFL introduces strict team guidelines for piped-in fan noise


With just six days separating us and the start of the NFL season, the moment football fans thought might not arrive appears to be here. When the league decided to call off preseason games, fans started to get a little nervous, wondering if the regular season would have to be changed like what has been seen with all other major sports leagues. Fortunately, it seems like its all systems go for the upcoming season, but the environment will be a little different than in previous years. Several teams have announced that they won’t allow fans to attend games, others have said they will start in Week 3 or beyond and others still will open their stadium doors to their fans, but will only allow a reduced capacity. This means that the action at each field is going to be unique, and the NFL is trying to balance things out. It’s going to allow fan noise to be used during games, but expects teams to follow a very tight list of rules. 

According to a tweet by NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero the NFL will allow teams to use their own sound bites, but only during the presentation of players. After that, league-provided crowd noise will be provided. In all cases, the sound level can’t go higher than 70 decibels. To put things in perspective, this is about the same level as a home vacuum cleaner and much less than what is normally seen at stadiums, which can sometimes hit the triple-digit mark. Any violation could result in a fine, a suspension or a loss of a draft pick. There will also be noise available for use in game broadcasts.

The memo distributed to teams yesterday reads, “NFL Films sound engineers have developed club specific audio pallets (crowd noise) for each NFL club. A trained audio engineer hired by the League office will work collaboratively with network personnel to incorporate the audio into the in-game broadcast feed. This audio will be dynamic and reactive to game situations within the game broadcasts. This broadcast audio is League-controlled; therefore, NFL Football Operations and NFL Broadcasting will monitor its use throughout the season.”

In order to try to cover all attempts to find a loophole, which certain teams have always shown a propensity for, the NFL adds that teams are not permitted to try to circumvent the rules by using any additional fan crowd noise other than what has been explained. This means, no blasting in music or sounds from the parking lot or any other area outside the confines of the stadium’s structure.

Some people have argued that the lack of live fans will cause problems and make the playing field unfair. However, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s competition committee have determined that this won’t be the case. There’s really no way to scientifically reach that conclusion due to the absence of any real baseline, but it simply means that teams are going to have give everything they have to try to win the game – which they should already be doing, anyway.