Flag Football Rules

Official Flag Football Rules

Collegiate leagues and rules committees have designed flag football rules to keep the flag football a safe, low contact sport that can be played by players of various sizes and abilities.  Unlike what has developed as regular College football, flag football does not require a lot of equipment—players are not required to wear pads or helmets—and is not primarily a game of size and speed in the way that its more popular cousin is.  In fact, flag football rules favor faster players and teams.

Number of Players

Typically, official rules require at least five players on each team in order to have a game.  A team usually consists of seven players, however, and is much like a professional team’s seven-on-seven drills.  Co-ed teams will usually have eight players so that there can be an equal number of boys and girls.

Contact Rules

In order to keep the game safe, the majority of flag football rules have to do with restricting contact.  A few of these rules are obvious.  There is no tackling in flag football, for instance, instead you grab the flag off the opposing player’s belt.  In order to insure there is no trickery when it comes to this, players are required to tuck in their shirts and to have the flags easily displayed.

When grabbing a flag from a player, players incur penalties if they impede, trip or otherwise contact the ball carrier.  Thus, if you are trying to get the flag from the player you are not allowed to jump on them or jump in their way in such a way that the player has not choice but to collide with you.

One of the major differences between flag football and other forms of contact football have to do with loose balls.  Unlike in regular football, a backward pass that lands on the ground is not “live.”  The rules consider such a pass a “dead ball.”  Similarly, the rules consider fumbles as “dead” as well.  The reason for these differences is that flag football rules hope to keep players from injuring themselves in pile-ups or hurt themselves or others diving for the ball.

Similarly, players are not allowed to try to strip the ball from ball carriers.  Reaching out and swiping at the ball rather than trying to get the flag will draw a penalty.

These contact rules make blocking illegal in flag football.  The players cannot intentionally reach out and push defenders out of the way.  They can, however, screen players by positioning themselves between the ball carrier and the would-be tackler.  They must do this in a way that does not contact the defender.  The defender in this situation must use his or her speed in order to run around the screen.  The rules in this area are similar to the rules for “charging” in basketball.  If the screening player has established his position the “tackler” cannot run through that player, but if the screening player moves into the defender’s right of way initiating contact, this is considered a “holding” foul.

Another similarity to basketball occurs in the passing game.  Passers and receivers cannot be contacted in such a way that knocks them from their path or throw (although they can be sacked or downed by having their flags removed while they have possession of the ball).  When a ball is in the air, however, both receiver and defender have equal right to the ball with a slight advantage going to the receiver.  Neither defender nor receiver, however, can intentionally make contact with the other in order to impede a catch.  Unintentional contact may occur however as both players jump or try to position themselves for the ball.

These rules make flag football a fun and safe way to introduce young players to football and allow smaller elusive players to enjoy the sport in way that size limitations don’t allow in the regular version of this All-American game.