The NFL has announced they will provide pre-recorded crowd noise for all teams to use during the upcoming season.

The games will start next week, mostly in empty stadiums, and the league is trying to replicate what players on the field – and fans at home – would normally hear.  It is doing this as a way to encourage and motivate players and fans, and to try, in a small way, to level the playing field since some teams will allow fans to attend games.

The NFL Lays Down The Crowd Noise Law

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero said yesterday on Twitter that the league will provide a series of pre-recorded crowd noise sound bites according to each club’s stadium. This audio will be played over the PA system in empty stadiums and partially filled stadiums, as well.  However, the league will be monitoring the audio reproduction to ensure it meets strict requirements.

The audio needs to be kept below 70 decibels – about the same level as a vacuum cleaner – and it will be monitored by the NFL to guarantee that it doesn’t go above this level.  If a violation occurs, the offender could face fines, suspensions or even a loss of draft picks.  Similar audio will be used for game broadcasts to offer consistency.

It’s A New Era Of NFL Football

According to the NFL’s memo on the subject, “NFL Films sound engineers have developed club specific audio pallets (crowd noise) for each NFL club.  A trained audio engineer hired by the League office will work collaboratively with network personnel to incorporate the audio into the in-game broadcast feed.  This audio will be dynamic and reactive to game situations within the game broadcasts.  This broadcast audio is League-controlled; therefore, NFL Football Operations and NFL Broadcasting will monitor its use throughout the season.”

The 2020 Games Operations Manual establishes the league’s audio policies.  This includes when music can be played, and when public address announcements can be made while the play clock is running.  The additional audio and crowd noise policies will come into effect for the 2020 season and will be revised on a weekly basis by NFL Football Operations. The policies have already been reviewed with the Competition Committee to make sure competitive equity while COVID-19 related restrictions on fans who attend games are in place.

Music and Other NFL Crowd Noise Audio Prompts

Audio that has always been permitted to be played during established times will continue to be permissible.  Nevertheless, for this season, music and other audio prompts can only be played by game presentation personnel up to a certain decibel level.  The maximum decibel level for music and other audio prompts is 75 decibels.

In addition to music and established club audio prompts, the NFL is going to provide clubs with an audio file that contains a series of pre-recorded fan sounds that are specific to the stadium.  The point of the curated audio is to create an audio landscape that masks some field-level audio normally not audible in a stadium with spectators.

The following policies for curated audio have been established by the Competition Committee to start the upcoming season:

League curated audio must be played in all stadiums that do not allow fans.

The curated audio must be turned on by kickoff and remain on whenever the play clock and game clock are ticking.

NFL Football Operations will supervise the decibel level throughout the game in order to make sure that the volume doesn’t go up or below the established decibel level.

NFL Commish Refutes Competitive Edge Arguments

The idea behind the noise is to try to ensure teams with live stadiums don’t have an edge over those with no fans.  However, After meeting with the NFL Competition Committee, commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement asserting that having fans at some stadiums does not equate to an advantage over teams with no fans.  This has been a sticky point as the season is about to get underway but, the truth is, there’s no way to adequately ascertain one way or another whether or not having fans present makes that much of a difference.  There is always something to be said for having the home-field advantage, but players should be going out and giving 100% all the time, regardless of whether or not fans are present.