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United States Patent Application 20170189753
Kind Code A1
Polifka; William July 6, 2017

Sports Game Ball Tracking System and Method


The present invention comprises a sports game ball tracking system and method. The invention includes at least one computer chip imbedded in a game ball. The game balls may be identified with a bar code system or a numbering system. The game ball computer chip may be configured to provide the coordinates of the game ball to a system computer using a global positioning system. The system computer may optionally be linked to a satellite system. The computer chip or chips and the system computer may be coupled to the game clock thereby allowing the position of the game ball to be known at each point in time on the game clock. The system of the present invention may be integrated with an American football down and distance stake and clip replacing the antiquated system of first down measurement of the prior art.

Inventors: Polifka; William; (Reno, NV)
Name City State Country Type

Polifka; William



Family ID: 1000002524897
Appl. No.: 15/351333
Filed: November 14, 2016

Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
62254560Nov 12, 2015

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: A63B 24/0021 20130101; A63B 69/002 20130101; A63B 2220/833 20130101; A63B 2243/007 20130101; A63B 2220/803 20130101; A63B 2024/0053 20130101
International Class: A63B 24/00 20060101 A63B024/00


1. A sports game ball location tracking system comprising: a. a game ball; b. a game ball computer chip embedded in the game ball; c. a system computer; d. wherein the game ball computer chip is configured to transmit its coordinates to the system computer.


[0001] The present invention relates to the fields of technology used to enhance the experience of fans, participants, referees, and spectators at sporting events. The present invention relates specifically to systems and methods for tracking the precise location of a game ball.


[0002] Professional sports leagues, inter-collegiate sports leagues, and competitive amateur sports leagues have all been increasingly utilizing technology to help enhance the experience of fans, and players. A significant development in this regard has been the proliferation of the use of "instant replay" review calls made by game referees.sup.1. Some information about how certain sports leagues are using instant replay is provided below. .sup.1Different sports use different terms to describe the person or people in charge of refereeing the game. The term "referee" herein shall include any such person or people including but not limited to a football referee, a baseball umpire, a hockey official, a basketball or soccer referee, etc.

American Football

[0003] The National Football League first adopted a limited Instant Replay system in 1986,[1] though the current system began in 1999, bringing in the opportunity to "challenge" on-field calls of plays. The current system mirrors a system used by the now defunct USFL in 1985. Each coach is allowed two opportunities per game to make a coach's challenge. Before the 2004 NFL season, the instant replay rule was slightly changed to allow a third challenge if both of the original two challenges were successful.

[0004] A challenge can only be made on certain reviewable calls on plays that begin before the two minute warning and only when a team has at least one time-out remaining in the half. Up until the 2005 season, coaches could signal a challenge via an electronic pager, now used only by the replay assistant. The coaches now throw a red flag onto the field, indicating the challenge to the referees. This red flag was originally the "backup plan" if the pager were to fail, but it has become the more popular option among NFL coaches to signal a replay request.

[0005] The referee has 60 seconds to watch the instant replay of the play and decide if the original call was correct. The referee must see "incontrovertible visual evidence" for a call to be overturned. If the challenge fails, the original ruling stands and the challenging team is charged with a timeout. If the challenge overrules the previous call, the call is reversed, should there have been an official score change, the score will be changed again, resulting in the original score and with no loss of a timeout.

[0006] Because of the limited number of challenges, and the possible penalty of a lost timeout, coaches typically reserve their challenges for key plays. A questionable call may not be challenged once the next play is underway, so coaches may be forced to make a quick decision without the benefit of seeing a replay on television or on the stadium screen. If a questionable call is made in favor of the offense, then the offense will often line up and snap the ball quickly to prevent the opposing coach from challenging the call. Often players on the field will signal to the coach if they believe the play should be challenged.

[0007] The NFL replay system currently only covers the following situations:

[0008] Scoring plays

[0009] Pass complete/incomplete/intercepted

[0010] Runner/receiver out of bounds

[0011] Recovery of a loose ball in or out of bounds

[0012] Touching of a forward pass, either by an ineligible receiver or a defensive player

[0013] Quarterback pass or fumble

[0014] Illegal forward pass

[0015] Forward or backward pass

[0016] Runner ruled not down by contact

[0017] Forward progress in regard to a first down

[0018] Touching of a kick

[0019] Other plays involving placement of the football

[0020] Whether a legal number of players is on the field at the time of the snap

[0021] As well the official rules of the National Football League require footballs to be inflated to a gauge pressure between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch (psi) or 86 to 93 kPa. The rules do not specify the temperature at which such measurement is to be made.

[0022] Prior to 2006, NFL custom was for the home team to provide all of the game footballs. In 2006, the rules were altered so that each team uses its own footballs while on offense. Teams rarely handle a football used by the other team except after recovering a fumble or interception. Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots (along with Peyton Manning, who was quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts in 2006), argued for the rules change for the express purpose of letting quarterbacks use footballs that suited them.

[0023] Underinflating a football may make it easier to grip, throw, and catch, and may inhibit fumbling, especially in cold rainy conditions. A ball inflated in a warm room and taken to a cold field could lose pressure, according to Gay-Lussac's law. Initial reports indicated that the magnitude of the pressure change observed in the game balls was inconsistent with that predicted analytically, suggesting that human intervention was involved; data in the Wells Report and subsequent analysis of same, however, suggest the opposite conclusion

[0024] Early reports suggested that the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens first suspected that the footballs the Patriots were using in the games against each team might have been deliberately underinflated to gain an illegal advantage during the 2014 NFL regular season; although head coach John Harbaugh denied reports concerning the Ravens.

[0025] In June of 2015, the American Enterprise Institute released an independent scientific study of the controversy that concluded that "[i]t is . . . unlikely that the Patriots deflated the footballs." The report was discussed in a New York Times article published on Jun. 12, 2015, entitled "Deflating Deflategate."[9] The study was authored by Kevin Hassett, Joseph Sullivan, and Stan Veuger.[10]

[0026] The American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game for the 2014 season was played on Jan. 18, 2015, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., home of the New England Patriots, who hosted the Indianapolis Colts for the chance to play in Super Bowl XLIX.

[0027] At halftime, league officials inspected the footballs. It was initially reported that eleven of the twelve balls used by the Patriots were measured to be two pounds per square inch below the minimum, but later reports refuted this allegation, citing only a single ball two pounds per square inch below the minimum.

[0028] According to NFL official Dean Blandino, referees do not log the pressure of the balls prior to the game, or if checked during the game, and did not do so in this case. Walt Anderson, the referee, "gauged" the footballs. The Patriots' game balls were re-inflated at halftime to meet specifications.

[0029] The National Football League began an investigation into the under-inflation of the game balls. The report of the investigation was released in May 2015.


[0030] In NBA basketball, the officials must watch an instant replay of a potential buzzer beater to determine if the shot was released before time expired. Since 2002, the NBA has mandated installation of LED light strips on both the backboard and the scorer's table that illuminate when time expires, to assist with any potential review.

[0031] Instant replay first came to NBA in the 2002-03 season. Beginning with the 2007-08 season, replay also can be used in determining players being ejected from contests involving brawls or flagrant fouls. In the 2008-09 season, replay may also be used to correctly determine whether a scored field goal is worth two or three points. It may also be used to determine the correct number of free throws awarded for a missed field goal. It may also be used in cases where the game clock malfunctions and play continues to decide how much time to take off the clock.

Ice Hockey

[0032] The video goal judge reviews replays of disputed goals. As the referee does not have access to television monitors, the video goal judge's decision in disputed goals is taken as final. In the NHL, goals may only be reviewed in the following situations: puck crossing the goal line completely and before time expired, puck in the net prior to goal frame being dislodged, puck being directed into the net by hand or foot, puck deflected into the net off an official, and puck deflected into the goal by a high stick (stick above the goal) by an attacking player. All NHL goals are subject to review, and although most arenas have a video goal judge, often officials in the Situation Room (also known as the "War Room") at the NHL office in Toronto make the final decision.

Field Hockey

[0033] In field hockey, the International Hockey Federation allows the match umpire to request the opinion of a video umpire as to whether or not a goal has been validly scored, and whether there was a violation in the build-up to a goal. The video umpire can advise on whether the ball crossed the line there was a violation.


[0034] Use of video referee was introduced to rugby union in 2001. The laws of the game allow for "an official who uses technological devices" to be consulted by the referee in decisions relating to scoring a try or a kick at goal. The decision to call on the video referee (now called "Television Match Official (TMO)") is made by the referee, then the call is made by the replay referee, who takes his place in the stand of the host team or more usually in the Television Outside Broadcast van. He either tells the pitch referee by radio link-up or by the use of a big screen during televised matches. Unlike in the NFL, a coach cannot challenge a call made by the pitch referee.

Need to go Beyond Visual

[0035] A substantial limitation of all current sports instant replay technology is that sometimes there is insufficient visual evidence on the location of the game ball.sup.2. For instance, in American football, a touchdown is scored when attacking player is able to advance any part of the ball across the plane of the goal line prior to having a part of his body other than his foot or hand touch the ground. That is, the imaginary plane extending vertically upward bounded at the bottom by the goal line. Unfortunately, any view of the location of the ball is often completely obscured by players. Often several players are piled on to one another. This is especially true in the scenario known as a goal line stand, where the line of scrimmage is a yard or less from the goal line. A similar scenario occurs when there is a close call as to whether the attacking team has advanced the ball enough to achieve a first down. In these situations, instant replay is of little use because there is no visual evidence of the ball's location at any given point in time. This problem would occur analogously in rugby. .sup.2The term game ball herein is used broadly to include for instance a hockey puck.

[0036] Similarly, in ice hockey instant replay sometimes fails to help determine whether the puck has crossed the plane of the goal line where the view of the puck is obscured by the goaltender's equipment or by other players. This scenario would also play out in soccer, water polo, field hockey or other sports where a goal is scored by passing the ball over a designated plane.

[0037] Therefore there exists an unmet need to provide a system to track a game ball's location even where any view of the game ball is obscured


[0038] The present invention fills the needs described above. In one embodiment, the system of the present invention includes at least one computer chip imbedded in a game ball ("game ball computer chip"). There might be on one such game ball computer chip embedded in each nose of an American football or rugby ball. The game balls may be identified with a bar code system or a numbering system. The game ball computer chip may be configured to provide the coordinates of the game ball to a system computer using a global positioning system ("GPS"). The system computer may optionally be linked to a satellite system. The computer chip or chips and the system computer may be coupled to the game clock thereby allowing the position of the game ball to be known at each point in time on the game clock. The game ball may be manufactured with the computer chip already imbedded. The system may optionally include a laser or radio or radar device coupled with the computer chip and/or the system computer such that the system computer receives a signal when the chip crosses a pre-determined plane such as the goal line of an American football field or the plane of an ice hockey goal. Optionally, the system may further include an indicator that would be configured to be actuated when the game ball crosses the pre-determined plane. The indicator may be coupled with the game clock to establish the time on the game clock at the moment the game ball crosses the pre-determined plane.

[0039] The computer chip may optionally be couple to an air pressure sensor with the air pressure sensor also being embedded in the game ball. The air pressure sensor may be coupled to the system computer to provide the system computer with real time data of the air pressure inside the game ball. This could eliminate future controversies regarding the pressure to which a game ball is inflated.

[0040] Optionally, the system may include 2 game ball computer chips embedded near the each nose of an American football, rugby ball, or other prolate spheroid shaped ball.sup.3. .sup.3An American football is shaped like a prolate spheroid, a continuously curved three-dimensional object that is longer than it is around.

Integration with American Football Down and Distance Markers

[0041] The system of the present invention may also include a computer chips embedded in the down and distance markers used by the chain crew in American football. The down and distance markers are the stakes connected to chains used in American football as the official way to measure how far a team must advance the ball to be awarded a first down. The down and distance markers include a chain measured to be exactly 10 yards and 2 stakes connected one to each side of the chain. The down and distance markers also include what is known as a "down and distance clip". A down and distance clip usually comprises a clip that may be affixed to and removed from the down and distance chain. The down and distance clip is placed on the next closest 5-yard-line (often called a "hash mark") beyond the position of the spot of the ball in the direction the team with possession of the ball is going. If a measurement is required to determine whether the team with possession of the ball has achieved a first down, the official measurement is from the spot of the clip forward to the forward stake. The measurement is accomplished through having a game official walk as straightly as possible from the sideline to the spot of the ball holding the forward stake. A second game official will hold the chain at the point of position of the clip and walk as straightly as possible to the spot of the ball. The two game officials then stretching the chain pulled tight. Then the location of the forward stake is compared to the spot of the ball. The system of the present invention may include a computer chip in each stake and one in the clip. Each of these computer chips would be coupled to the system computer. This would provide the system computer with real time information on the official location of the distance required for a first down. As well, the system of the present invention might replace the antiquated system of first down measurement described above. This would eliminate the inherent inaccuracy of relying on a game official to accurately walk the down and distance markers approximately 20 yards from the sideline to the spot of the ball where the difference between achieving a first down and not is often inches. As well the system of the present invention would provide game officials and or game instant replay officials a more accurate spot of the football. Visual evidence from instant replay would establish the time on the game clock when the player is down. The game ball computer chip(s) (also coupled to the game clock) would provide an accurate placement of the game ball at the moment the player with the ball is down (based on said visual evidence from instant replay if necessary.) The down and distance clip may be placed between along the chain between the sticks (for example, the 5 yard point between the 2 sticks). The measurement (clip) is placed at the next forward yard line and measured by the referee stretched out forward towards the goal line (relative to the team with the ball). This clip can give the location and already know if the first down has been achieved without physically measuring and stopping the game. The clip and ball chips will communicate and already know if the first down has been achieved as soon as referee spots the ball after the play. This may be accomplished through integration with the system computer, and through use with GPS.

[0042] The system of the present invention may also provide an enhanced experience for spectators both on television, and for live spectators through the monitors provided for live spectators. The system of the present invention also might save time on instant on challenging the spot of the football.

Integration with Venue WiFi

[0043] The system may optionally include integration with the WiFi at the game venue to enhance the experience for live spectators. The live spectators may be able to access the some or all of the information provided by the system computer via a smartphone, tablet, or similar device.

[0044] The system of the present invention would also take pressure of the game officials. Overzealous fans have been known to threaten game officials and the family members of game officials.


[0045] FIG. 1 is shows an embodiment of the present invention wherein the game ball computer chips are located near the each nose of an oblong ball such as an American football. A pressure gauge is also shown.

[0046] FIG. 2 is as FIG. 1 but viewed facing the nose of the ball.

[0047] FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of the invention showing integration with the Game Clock, System Computer and Satellite.

[0048] FIG. 4 shows an embodiment of the present invention optimized for use with the American Football down and distance markers.

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