May 23, 2017
Later this summer the new American Flag Football League will make its debut with a pair of test-run games to be held at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California. The plan is to show sports fans that football can still be exciting, even without the bone-crunching tackles. The league made headlines earlier this week when it was announced that former NFL players Michael Vick and Justin Forsett will participate in the scrimmages, which are scheduled to take place on July 26 and 27. But AFFL founder Jeff Lewis knows that if his fledgling league is going to take off, he needs more than just a few former pro players to garner support from fans. Instead, he is betting heavily on technology to help lure in viewers in the digital age.
When planning for the launch of the new league, Lewis enlisted SMT — the sports tech company behind the yellow first down marker used in NFL broadcasts — to help create innovative technology that could potentially set the AFFL apart from other leagues. One of the first things that the company came up with was the “e-flag” system, which can accurately track the on-field position of a player’s flag and alert officials when it is pulled. Reportedly, the system is accurate to within four inches and uses a special app to let referees know exactly where to place the ball. This should help speed up play and achieve one of Lewis’ goals of finishing games in under two hours.
SMT also helped the league create custom onscreen graphics for use when streaming games online or through the Kiswe video app (iOS/Android). For instance, AFFL rules prevent defensive players from rushing the quarterback for two seconds after the snap of the ball, and viewers will see a visual indicator to let them know when that time limit has expired. Similarly, the QB has just four seconds to throw the ball or run past the line of scrimmage, and a similar graphic will appear beneath his feet. Naturally, first down markers will be displayed as well, and broadcasters calling the game will have an assortment of tools, such as the ability to show passing routes. Fans watching the game live in the stadium will get visual cues using the location’s lighting system too.
The first AFFL game on July 26 will actually be played in an empty stadium, giving players, coaches, refs, and announcers the chance to do a live walkthrough before fans arrive the following day. Then, on July 27, they will play a regular game in front of an audience for the very first time. Tickets are available for $10, with all proceeds being donated to the Positive Coaching Alliance.