A new and game-changing technology could make its long-awaited debut in football stadiums in the coming year.
It just won’t be inside any NFL stadiums.
First Down Laser Systems, a company that has developed a laser that projects a first-down line across the field that is visible for fans to see in the stadium and on television, is in discussion with the Canadian Football League for a test run during its season this spring.
If the company and the CFL can hammer out a deal, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and others will no doubt be closely monitoring the implementation, performance and appearance of the technology.
“We continue to have a pretty good dialogue with the Canadian Football League and we are hoping to pin them down to a date and test this spring,” FDLS spokesman Larry Weisman said. “The NFL will be watching what we do. We met with them a year ago last May and they told us what they liked and what they didn’t like in the model we showed them.
“What they told us we took to heart. The last thing they said was they wanted to see it in live use. For us that is the next goal.”
The laser system is attached to the first-down markers and beams a colored light across the field. It is similar to the yellow line that viewers see on TV. With the laser system, though, the line would also be seen by fans, players and coaches in the stadium as well.
“It gives technology a boost in the stadium that people at home already enjoy,” Weisman said. “The issue the NFL has is the competition with the couch. How do you replicate for the stadium what fans are accustomed to viewing at home? The (laser) strip is one way.”
First Down has already debuted the technology in a major live sporting event twice. For the last two years, the laser was used at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in Eugene, Ore.
The line indicated distances for competitors in field events like the shot put, javelin, hammer throw and long jump and added another one to show the leader’s score.
“It was very well received by USA Track and Field and the foundation that supports it,” Weisman said. “We did it in 2013 and were invited back for 2014. We expect to do it again. The fans, coaches and athletes liked it.”
The technology can also be used in NASCAR to track cars, cover offside calls in soccer, pin-point 3-pointers in basketball and even in non-sport commercial ventures. However, the ultimate goal is to get the technology inside NFL stadiums.
First Down Laser Systems hopes to take a big step later this year North of the border.
“The line has to move in the NFL and in consistent fashion and fast,” Weisman said. “We are prepared for that and our technology will work in those situations. Until we do that and show the NFL that, they are going to continue to ask that question.
“They have not given us any indication of how quick they would do something. I can’t speak for them but they want to see it in a live venue before they take the next step. We are not on their front burner but also not on the back burner. We will keep them apprised of what we are doing.”