As the NFL looks to improve its rules and cash in on legalized sports gambling, its best course of action may be to follow the Alliance of American Football.
The NFL’s season ended last weekend with the Patriots winning Super Bowl LIII, but football is not over as the Alliance of American Football League (AAF) made its debut on Saturday night. The new league hopes to be a compliment to the NFL, rather than a competitor. Charlie Ebersol, who co-founded the league with Bill Polian, said it would “be an act of insanity to try to compete with the NFL.” Therefore, the league will only be a 10-week season running from February to April, ending before the NFL draft.
The AAF will fill the off-season void and allow Americans to get their fill of football all year round. However, the AAF will not simply be a copy of the NFL. The AAF currently differentiates itself from the NFL in two distinct ways: (1) a unique new set of playing rules and (2) incorporating innovative technology to capitalize on legalized sports betting. These two unique features of the AAF could provide a blueprint for the NFL to change its own rules and incorporate sports betting in the future.
The AAF’s Unique Rules:
The AAF provides many rules that are unique and different from the NFL, here are a few of the notable rule changes:
- No kickoffs, instead, after a score the opposing team gets the ball on the 25-yard line.
- No onside kicks. Rather, if a team is down by 17 points or more with less than five minutes remaining in the game, a team can attempt an “onside conversion.” An onside conversion gives a team an opportunity to convert a fourth-and-12 from its own 28 and if it succeeds, it keeps the ball.
- No extra points, so every team must go for two after a touchdown.
- In overtime, each team gets the ball at the 10-yard line with four downs and a two-point conversion if it scores. Field goals are not allowed and if after both teams have the ball the game is still tied; it ends in a tie.
- The play clock will be set at 35 seconds compared to 40 seconds in the NFL.
- There are no TV timeouts
- Officials do not go under the hood for replays, rather, the official will have an earpiece to communicate directly on the field with a replay official in real time.
- The TV timeout, play clock, and replay rules are an attempt to shorten the overall game time. The goal is to have games end in 2.5 hours or less.
Many of the above-mentioned rules have been discussed by the NFL. Most notably, the NFL has considered eliminating kickoffs, shortening games, and potentially changing the overtime format. Therefore, depending on the success of the AAF, the AAF’s rules could provide a blueprint for future rule changes in the NFL.
The AAF’s Focus on Sports Betting:
The AAF is also working to capitalize on the recent Supreme Court ruling in Murphy v. NCAA. Last year, the Supreme Court in Murphy overturned a federal prohibition on sports betting. Now states are left in power to legalize and regulate sports betting. Although only 8 states currently offer legalized sports gambling, the AAF is setting itself up for success as sports gambling grows.
The AAF has built a technology platform that captures and provides data to individuals in milliseconds. Currently, this technology will be able to standardize data delivery to gambling houses and fantasy leagues. However, this platform is so profound, that the AAF believes that it can provide for in-game betting on play outcomes in the future. This proprietary technology has captured the attention of many investors, leading to MGM Resorts International, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, and the Chernin Group to invest in the AAF.
Currently, none of the AAF’s teams play in a state that has legalized sports betting. But this technology is not about this year; it’s about the future of gambling in the AAF and in all professional sports leagues. Strategically, the AAF will have its championship game in Las Vegas, the gambling capital of America. This will allow AAF to showcase its innovative technology and capture the attention of gamblers across America.
The MLB, NHL, and NBA all have signed on official sports betting partners, but the NFL has yet to do so. Consequently, this incredible new technology could be the future for the NFL. Gambling presents a billion-dollar revenue stream for the NFL. Therefore, the NFL will want to create the best betting partnership possible. As the AAF’s season plays out, its gambling technology platform is further developed, and more states legalize sports gambling, we may be seeing the future of NFL gambling.
The ratings for the first night of AAF football came out on Sunday. Opening night on CBS drew in a promising 2.9 million viewers, which was greater than the NBA’s game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets. This is a promising start for the AAF and could signal long-term success for the league.