American Flag Football League Rules (2023 Update)
This is an article compiled by FootballTerms about American flag football league rules updated latest and most complete
(7) players per team are allowed on the field at any one time.
Must field at least 5 players (in mixed leagues at least 2 must be female)
Teams may have as many as 16 players on their squad.
Teams must forfeit if they do not have the ability to field 5 players.
Substitutions can occur in between downs. Substitutions during a down are not allowed. The team must maintain no more than 7 people on the field. Play cannot resume until all extra players are on the sideline. If the ball is snapped with more than 7 players on the field, a penalty will incur.
Games are played in two, 25-minute halves separated by a two (2) minute half-time. (In mixed league 20-minute halves). This is known as the game clock.
The referee maintains a running clock throughout each half. The clock will only be stopped for injuries, timeouts, equipment adjustments (broken flags and/or putting on a different color jersey), and exceptional circumstances. Each team has three 30-second timeouts in the game and could be used at any time.
The “play clock” refers to the time in between each play. The offense has 30 seconds to snap the ball from the moment the spot is placed to the moment the next play commences. The umpire will inform the offensive team when there are 10 seconds left on the play clock.
If the ball is on the “spot” and time expires the umpire will announce, “This is the last play of the half/game.” Whatever the outcome of the play, besides a touchdown or defensive penalty, will result at the end of half or game.
If there is a defensive penalty, the penalty will be applied and another down will be played – again being the last play of the half/game.
If that play results in a touchdown, the P.A.T. shall be played, but the offensive team can elect to forgo this should they choose.
If time expires while the ball is in play, once the play comes to an end, the umpire will announce that the play had expired and “This is the last play of the half/game.”
If time expires while the ball is (a) In the air and a touchdown is caught or (b) after a touchdown during a P.A.T or (c) in the air during a 4th down which results in a turnover, the umpire will announce at the end of that play had/has expired and “This is the last play of the half/game.” Team B will have 1 play.
Each team has three 30-second timeouts in the game. Either team may call a timeout at any point during the course of the game. When a timeout is called, the time clock will only start when the ball is snapped. When the 30-second timeout is finished, the play clock will start and resume from where it was previously stopped at.
Before overtime begins, the captains will reconvene with the referee, and another coin toss will take place. The winner of the coin toss will decide whether they want to defend or receive. The team with the ball will start at the halfway line.
The team with the ball will have 4 downs to score a touchdown. The same rules apply to the use of personnel and the rules of the game. If the team fails to score, it will result in a turnover on downs and the ball would be re-positioned at the halfway line.
The first team to score a touchdown will win the game.
In the event of an interception, and a touchdown is scored – returned to the opposite end-zone, the game is over. If there is no score from the interception, the ball will be placed at the halfway line.
Before the game begins, the team captains will meet with the referee for a coin toss.
The winner of the coin toss will decide if they want to defend or receive the ball, they also have the choice to defer to the opposite team. If the winner chooses to defend or receive, the opposition gets the choice to defend or receive in the 2nd half. If the winner defers, they will have the choice in the 2nd half to defend or receive the ball.
The match will start (as well as a turnover on downs) from the 5-yard line. Each team has four (4) downs to move the ball to the halfway line, and then a subsequent 4 downs with which to score. If within this second set of downs, the line of play moves backward, and then past the halfway point again, no additional downs are awarded.
If the attacking team fails to make the 1st down after 4 attempts or score a touchdown, this will constitute a turnover on downs and the game will reset and the defending team will take possession on their own 5-yard line.
In the mixed league – A female player must be involved in the play (receive or handle the ball) in one of the first 3 downs. Failure will result in a 5-yard penalty and a loss of down and 4th down must use a female player.
In this scenario and no girl is used on 4th down, the result of the play is a turnover on downs and the 5-yard penalty will be added to the next play. If however a 1st down or a touchdown is achieved during one of the first 3 downs without the use of a female player, there is no penalty.
If the female player plays as a quarterback, then she is not allowed to complete a handoff to count as her girl play but must either throw an overhand pass across the line of scrimmage.
A player is considered tackled when a member of the opposing team has ripped off the flag of the ball runner. The removal of a flag on the ball runner will constitute a tackle and signal the end of a down. In addition, a player is considered tacked if any body part other than their feet or hands makes contact with the ground.
Should a flag fall off accidentally before or during the play and that player receives the ball with only 1 or no flags on hips, the player will be considered tackled via one open-hand touch.
If the player with control of the ball fumbles, that will be the end of the down, and the ball will be played from that spot.
The attacking team is allowed to run the ball using a “running play.” They however cannot run the ball inside the defending team’s 10-yard line; this also includes the single point after the touchdown. On a 2-point conversion, a running play is acceptable.
If a team decides to do a running play or fake the handoff (play action) the defensive team may cross the line of scrimmage immediately in an attempt to tackle the player with the ball.
The offense may hand the ball off multiple times behind the line of scrimmage. No player may hand the ball to a teammate except an offense player who is behind the line of scrimmage. No snapper may receive a forward hand-off but can accept a pass from the quarterback. A handoff must happen at least 1 yard behind the line of scrimmage.
In the event of the defending team catches the attacking team’s pass (an interception) the play will continue until the player scores a touchdown or is tackled. If the player is tackled, the ball will be down at the spot of the tackle.
If the defending player intercepts the ball in the end zone and is tackled without leaving the end zone, a touchback will be awarded and the ball will be placed on the 5-yard line.
If the quarterback is tackled in the end zone, safety procedure will incur.
If the player intercepts the ball in the end zone, leaves the end zone, returns back to the end zone, and is subsequently tackled, a safety procedure will incur.
If the player intercepts the ball in the field of play and then enters and is tackled in the end zone, safety procedure will incur.
A catch is awarded to the player as long as one-foot lands inbounds and they have possession of the ball. If the player catches the ball and the first point of contact is with the ground and is out of bounds it will result in an incomplete pass.
If both offensive and defenders catch the ball simultaneously, the catch will be awarded to the offensive player.
If the ball touches the ground and/or aids in securing the ball during the process of the catch, it will result in an incomplete pass.
In the event of a bad snap where no player had possession of the ball during the play, the play will be blown dead and result in a loss of down. Should the quarterback or player fumble the ball during the play, the play will be blown dead at the spot of the fumble.
If the ball is fumbled in the end zone or the ball goes out of bounds in the end zone from a bad snap or handling error, safety procedure will ensure.
LINE OF SCRIMMAGE
Huddles are allowed in between plays, and during timeouts.
The ball must be snapped on the line of scrimmage where the umpire has placed the spot.
The formation of the attacking team on the line of scrimmage can vary from play to play.
The attacking players can motion (move around in the backfield) before the snap, but they must come to a complete stop before the ball is snapped – to be set.
The ball may be snapped in a variety of ways. (a) The quarterback may self-snap the ball off the ground or in the air. (b) The ball may be snapped off the ground or in midair by a player to the quarterback. (c) The ball may be handled and snapped by the quarterback while the ball is touching a player on the spot.
Under this guidance above, unless the ball is snapped between the legs of the center, whoever issues the cadence “Hut” or similar, becomes the quarterback.
Failure to have a clear snap count, (ie going silent without a center) should result in a 5-yard penalty for snap infringement. If a team snaps the ball on a silent count, there must be a center that snaps the ball to the quarterback.
The defensive players are able to move around before and during the snap. They may not however cross the line of scrimmage before the snap.
The defensive team may elect one or two player(s) named, ‘the Blitzer’, who may line up 7 or more yards from the scrimmage line at the snap, and start a rush towards the quarterback immediately after the snap.
A maximum of 2 Blitzers can ask for the right of way. If a Blitzer is giving an invalid signal or if more than 2 players simultaneously keep their hand raised before the snap it is an illegal signal. (5-yard penalty).
The defensive team may elect to have no Blitzers if they so wish.
The Blitzer can get right of way to the quarterback if they raise one hand clearly above the head before the snap.
The Blitzer’s rush has to be quick and straight to the point where the quarterback receives the snap. If a Blitzer is rushing slowly, aiming at another point, or changing direction during the rush (other than to pursue the quarterback), they lose the right of way.
If the Blitzer moves within the allotted 7 yards from the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped they will not be deemed offside until they cross the line of scrimmage. Should the Blitzer however move within the 7 yards but then move back 7 or more yards from the line of scrimmage before the snap, no penalty would be called for defensive offside but they lose the right of way.
Players on the line are not allowed to latch onto clothing. Holding onto clothing or a person will result in a holding penalty (5 yards).
Flag football is a non-contact sport, players are not allowed to block or “jam” the opposing players on the line of scrimmage. Equally, players are not allowed to block during the play. This will result in an illegal contact (5 yards).
On the line, Females on defense can line up against females or males, but a male on defense can only line up against another male.
The offensive team has 7 seconds to move the ball past the line of scrimmage either by throwing or running. If they fail to do so, the play is whistled dead. The resulting penalty is a 5-yard penalty and loss of down. In the event this happens on the 4th down, the result of the play is a turnover on downs and the 5-yard penalty will be added to the next play.
The team on offense can hand off the ball multiple times behind the line of scrimmage.
Ball runners and players are not allowed to jump “hurdle” another player. This implies leaving both feet from the ground in a jumping motion towards, into, or around other players.
A touchdown is worth six (6) points. In order to score a touchdown, the ball must be in the possession of the runner and break the plain of the end zone the player would run towards to score. If catching in the end zone, the first point of contact must land inbounds for the touchdown to be valid (besides hand). If the first point of contact with the ground is out of bounds, no score will be awarded.
After the team has scored a touchdown then they will get the ball back in order to convert for extra points called a “P.A.T”. If they score again from the 5-yard line, they receive one additional point. If they score again from the 12-yard line, then they receive 2 additional points. The teams have one play to score a P.A.T.
Umpires will do their best to assess if a player was in or out of bounds at the time of catch, however, if they are not certain and cannot confirm a body part landed in our or out of bounds, no completion, touchdown or P.A.T will be awarded.
The scored-against team will then start from their own 5-yard line.
If time expires and a touchdown is scored, the attacking team can forego the P.A.T if they wish and that would signal the end of the game.
If the defensive team returns the ball on a P.A.T. for a touchdown, they shall be awarded 2 points and they will retain the ball and start from their own 5-yard line.
Safety procedure – This will result in safety (2 points) and result in a turnover.
RULES & PENALTIES
Any whistle makes the ball dead and signals the end of the play and the ball shall be spotted where the whistle blew.
The offensive team must start the play within 30 seconds of the previous play or they will receive a 5-yard delay of game penalty (Play clock violation.) The umpire will inform the offensive team when there are 10 seconds left on the play clock.
If a player is down due to pushing/roughness, a penalty will occur.
If an offensive penalty occurs on or inside the 10-yard line, the penalty will be half the distance to the goal.
The team, who benefits from a penalty, may decline the penalty if they so wish. It is up to the team to inform the umpire and request the decline of the penalty.
The quarterback cannot run or pass the ball ahead of the line of scrimmage. If the quarterback runs or passes the ball over the line of scrimmage, the play shall continue until the end of the play. A 5-yard penalty and a loss of down will be applied. In the event this happens on the 4th down, the result of the play is a turnover on downs and the 5-yard penalty will be added to the next play.
Defensive players may not attempt or be permitted to cause a fumble by hitting, swatting, or ripping at the ball. This will result in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
If a player’s flags are pulled before the ball is touched/tipped by the intended receiver or touches a defender, a 10-yard pass interference penalty will be applied to the end of the catch.
If the defensive player catches the ball “interception” and their flags are pulled before the ball is originally touched/tipped, a 10-yard pass interference penalty will be added to the spot.
If the quarterback is in possession of the ball and it is knocked out of their hand(s) by the Blitzer’s hands, arms, or body by unintentional contact, the ruling will be unintentional contact with the passer and a 5-yard penalty applied, and a replay of the down.
If a player makes contact with the quarterback while not going for their flags, unintentionally, either before or after the ball is released a 5-yard penalty will be awarded.
If a player makes contact with the quarterback intentionally, before or after the ball is released, a 10-yard penalty and first down will be applied.
Blocking a tackle from being made (obstruction) will result in the play being returned to the spot of the infringement and a loss of 5 yards and down.
Flag guarding will result the in the play being returned to the spot of the infringement and a loss of 5 yards and down.
Impeding the Blitzer will result in a 5-yard offensive penalty and a replay of the down. If the penalty is declined the spot will remain the same but a loss of down would be applied.
Time wasting, if a team is clearly wasting time by taking pre-snap penalties such as a false start, or delay of game, a 5-yard penalty will, a loss of down, and time will stop. This will likely be applied if the offense takes two back-to-back pre-snap penalties within the last 2 minutes of the half or game.
If a player swats at the ball in the process of the catch and makes contact with the head of the opposing player, a 10-yard penalty will ensue.
Loss of 5 yards:
- Required equipment is worn illegally.
- Delay of the game.
- Too many players. (When the ball is snapped)
- Illegal snap.
- Illegal signal.
- False start.
- Illegal Procedure.
- 7-second rule (and loss of down).
- Illegal forward pass (and loss of down).
- Blocking. (At the spot of the foul and loss of down)
- Helping the runner: the runner shall not grasp a teammate or be grasped, pulled, or pushed by a teammate.
- Guarding the flag belt. (5 yards from the spot of the foul and loss of down)
- Holding (offensive holding will add loss of down)
- Unintentional contact with the passer.
- Unintentional contact with the receiver after the catch.
- Impeding the Blitzer(s). Accept 5 yards and replay down. Decline spots remain the same, and loss of down.
Loss of 10 yards:
- Delaying the start of either half.
- Two or more consecutive encroachments during the same interval between downs. The initial encroachment 5 yards.
- Illegal participation.
- Offensive passes interference. (and loss of down)
- Defensive pass interference is a 10 yards penalty or the ball will be placed at the point of the foul, whichever is greater. (automatic 1st down)
- They illegally secured their belt on touchdown. (Revoke touchdown and loss of down)
- Unsportsmanlike Conduct.
- Attempt to steal the ball from the carrier. 2nd offense is unsportsmanlike conduct (disqualification).
- Unnecessary contact of any sort.
- Intentional roughing of the passer. (and automatic 1st Down)
- Defensive use of hands.
- Illegal batting to the head.
- Illegal flag belt removal.
- Personal foul.
- Flagrant unsportsmanlike conduct. (Disqualification)
- Flagrant personal fouls. (Disqualification)
- Intentionally tampering with flag belt. (Disqualification)
- Illegal equipment.
Referees determine incidental contact that may result from a normal run of play. All penalties will be assessed from the line of scrimmage and from the sideline judge.
Only the team captain may ask the referee questions about rule clarification and interpretations. Players cannot question judgment calls.
Games cannot end on a defensive penalty unless the offense declines it.
If your team forfeits a match during the season, the following rules apply:
1st Offense: Loss of game and warning issued.
2nd Offense: Loss of game and staff reserves the right to remove the team from playoffs.
If you know in advance that your team is going to forfeit a game, we encourage you to call our office so as to help us schedule your opponent a game. Teams have until ten minutes past the designated start time to field a full squad (minimum of 2 females).
If at that time one team is unable to field a full team, it will be up to the staff and the opposing captain to determine what is allowable. They have the choice of making the team play short-handed or forcing a forfeit. We always strongly encourage the former, and look to play a game in all circumstances.
The updated standings will be posted weekly, displaying each team’s rank within its skill level.
All eligible teams make the playoffs (teams that have not abused any policies are eligible). In certain situations, teams at or near the bottom of the standings may not advance to the playoffs. Check with the GO MAMMOTH league coordinator to see if this applies to your league. Playoffs are single elimination.
Ringers used during playoffs/finals must be agreed upon by both sides before the games begin- if a team does not permit another team to use ringers they will have to play short-handed.
Teams may play more than one match per day. Any questions regarding policies, rules, or eligibility must be addressed before the start of the match.
In order to participate in the league, each participant must sign the team waiver. Waivers are provided and must be completed and handed in no later than the first night of play. Players who do not present during the first week of play will still be required to sign a waiver with our staff before participating.
The idea of GO MAMMOTH is to have fun. We hope that all participants keep that in mind when becoming involved. Although the games may become intense, you still can be competitive while maintaining good sportsmanship. With this said, any behavior deemed unacceptable by staff may result in suspension and/or ejection from a game or the league.
To coordinate and run the league, our refs and/or staff will be available at all times to help the league run as smoothly as possible. If you have questions regarding schedules, policies, rule interpretations, directions to the bar, etc. please ask.