Integrity and Sports Betting: NFL Misses The Mark

There has been a lot of talk since the repeal of PASPA about “integrity” in sports. Now, the majority of this chatter has been started by the leagues themselves, with the NBA beating the loudest drum for taking a piece of the action to preserve the integrity of the games.

We can all agree that we don’t want there to be rampant cheating in sports, especially when it comes to affecting the outcomes of large numbers of sports bets.

However, there has been no clear indication of how any of these leagues would take the money they want to be set aside for them by sportsbooks and use it in a manner that would make a significant change in the protection of the sanctity of the sport.

Over the last few weeks in the NFL, there have been a couple of incidents that show where a league could have some issues with integrity, and we have some ideas of a solution.

A Tough Spot

In both Week 4 and Week 5, there were on-field incidents when the placement of the ball on the field caused teams major havoc (and in one case the game). One of the incidents involved everything that is right and wrong with football. A ball had been placed at a spot giving a team a first down, only to have that spot challenged by the opposing coach.

The review of the play caused the ball the be spotted a few inches further back than its original spot, and then when the lines judges came out with the chains to measure the spot, it was determined that the ball was not far enough to result in a first down, forcing the offensive team to punt the ball.

Now, let’s break this down regarding all the ways this could have been affected by outside sources. First, there was an arbitrary spot of the football based on the view of one of the officials.

Nothing new here, the NFL has been doing this for years, and for the most part, does an excellent job. However, allowing the coaches to challenge the spot of the ball bot only causes a delay on the field, but it also brings the original call by the official under scrutiny.

Then, a different official has to look at the replay on the field, which in this case cause a change of the spot. Finally, two people holding chains have to come out on the field and place their chains in the approximate spot that they had them on the sidelines, then pull them tight to see if the ball has traveled the full 10 yards.

Do you see how there are several instances where a personal opinion or human error could have an impact on the game? Not to say that this is what happened in this incident, but the point is that it could happen. While the league is focused on the fees they could collect to put towards protecting the integrity of the game, it has not come up with a solution.

Take the eyes away

Look, we understand that the league has employees and that there is a lot of history to how the game is played and officiated. However, it sure seems like the time has come to modernize some of the decisions at the very least.

One way we think the league could be progressive is in digitizing the lines calling. This is something that tennis spent many years perfecting, but now in the larger events, the players can challenge a ruling made by a human, and there is a computer simulation of the action that can show to within a 100th of an inch the spot of a ball when it hits the ground.

Bear in mind that it does all this only seconds after the ball is struck, and these balls are moving at upwards of 120 mph.

The NFL should announce that as part of the replay challenge system, they will implement a system similar to tennis on their fields. The football is larger and moves much more slowly, so it should be easy enough for cameras to track and to have the location be digitized.

It may take a couple of years to perfect, and it wouldn’t take away from the job being done on the field, but it would settle arguments once and for all when the spot of the ball can mean the difference between a team winning or losing – and a whole lot of gamblers’ tickets hanging in the balance.

If the league wants to get their piece of the pie, taking steps like the one we have suggested would go a long way to convincing lawmakers that this isn’t just a cash grab.