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New stadium rules for NFL games – free wifi, unlimited noise, more instant replay

Professional football, America’s most popular and profitable sport, is preparing to tackle a glaring weakness: Stadiums are increasingly empty.

As part of sweeping changes designed to give teams more flexibility to fill their seats, the National Football League is watering down its controversial TV “blackout” rule. And this season, for the first time, fans in the stadium will be able to watch the same instant replays the referees see during reviews of controversial calls.

The league also is planning to introduce wireless Internet in every stadium and to create smartphone apps that could let fans listen to players wearing microphones on the field.

With declines in ticket sales each of the past five years, average game attendance is down 4.5% since 2007, while broadcast and online viewership is soaring.

In hopes that professional football can mimic the wild stadium atmosphere typical of college football games, the NFL says it has “liberalized” its restraints on crowd noise. Stadiums will now be free to rile up crowds with video displays, and public-address announcers will no longer be restrained from inciting racket when the opposing offense faces a crucial third down.

 

Read moreGame Changer: NFL Scrambles to Fill Seats

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