NFL Equity Rule

The league’s equity rule is the underlying policy that governs the competitive aspects of the game.

NFL Football Operations works year-round to make sure that games are equitable and that no team gains an unfair competitive advantage over its opponent each week. The league’s equity rule is the underlying policy that governs the competitive aspects of the game.

Under the equity rule, the home club in each game is obligated “to grant the visiting club all practical equity in any consideration that could affect competitive factors on game day.”

This means that the visiting team has the same access as the home team to locations, technology, equipment and conveniences — whether in the locker room, the bench area, the coaching booth or the video shooting positions.

NFL Football Operations must maintain a delicate balance: determining how to innovate while respecting and preserving the game’s traditions, integrity and competitive equity. The equity rule is critical to fulfilling that objective.

The Equity Rule in Action

Coach-to-Player (C2P) Communications:

Each club’s C2P system, which allows coaches to communicate with designated players between plays, must be fully functional before kickoff. If it is not, the affected club must notify the nearest game official or NFL Football Operations representative, who will instruct the opposing club’s equipment manager to turn over his team’s C2P components to the league-appointed C2P technician until the system is restored.

The equity rule no longer applies once the C2P system is fully functional for both clubs, or if the system is fully functional when the game starts. The equity rule is not enforced for in-game issues.

Coaches’ Booths:

The home team will provide the visiting club a booth with an unobstructed view of the field and unobstructed and private use of phones for its coaches. This booth will be located at the same elevation as the home coaches’ booth. No one is allowed to interfere with the visiting coaches’ privacy or with their ability to perform their duties, and no one connected with the home team is allowed in the visiting coaches’ booth.

Each coaches’ booth is equipped with television monitors that show the live network feed of the game directly from the network television truck. The feed is the same as the one used in the instant replay booth. Before each game, a league-employed instant replay technician will confirm that both coaches’ booths have the correct video feed and that the monitors are functioning.

The equity rule applies until kickoff. If one team’s monitors are not operational at kickoff, neither team may use them until the problem is resolved. If the coach’s monitors are fully functional when the game starts, the equity rule is not enforced for in-game issues.

Sideline Viewing System:

The home team is responsible for providing the league-issued sideline viewing system for both clubs, which coaches use to review still images from the game with their players and make in-game adjustments. The league issues 13 Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablets in each bench area and 12 more in each coaches’ booth, as well as a printing system for coaches to use to print copies of the still images. The tablets, set up and maintained by league-employed purple hat technicians on game day, are configured so that clubs can’t modify them to gain an unfair competitive advantage. Attempts to alter tablet hardware or software without league approval are prohibited.

If sideline or booth devices are not working properly at kickoff, the opposing team is limited to using only as many operational devices as the affected team has. For example, if one team has seven working devices in the bench area at kickoff, the other team is limited to using seven devices in its bench area. When the malfunctioning devices are restored, both teams can resume using all of their devices. Both teams may still use paper printouts in place of the tablets, assuming that both clubs’ printing systems are operational.

The equity rule no longer applies once the tablet systems are fully functional for both clubs, or once the game has started with full functionality.

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