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An Intramural game of co-ed flag football at the University of Texas at Austin

Flag football is a version of American football that is popular worldwide. The basic rules of the game are similar to those of the mainstream game (often called "tackle football" for contrast), but instead of tackling players to the ground, the defensive team must remove a flag or flag belt from the ball carrier ("deflagging") to end a down. In most organized play, players wear a belt. These belts vary from 'Triple Threat" which the entire flag belt is removed, to "Sonic Pop" which only the flag is pulled. The "Sonic Pop" flag belts have also been modified by some organizations to just a simple velcro attachment holding the flag to the belt.



Chiefly because there is no dominant sanctioning organization for the sport, the game has mutated into many variations: 9-man, 8-man, 7-man, 5-man, and 4-man on a side; with kicking and punting and without; with point-after conversions (including some with 1, 2, and 3 point tries) or without; and field sizes that vary from full NFL size (120 yards long by 53 1/3 yards wide) to fields a third that size.

An important distinction is whether linemen are allowed to catch passes ("Eligible Linemen") or, as in the NFL, are not allowed to do so ("Ineligible Linemen"). Flag (and touch) football may also be divided into "contact" or "non-contact", depending on whether or not blocking is allowed; if allowed, blocking is usually restricted to the chest.

In Non-Contact flag football, there is no blocking, usually no linemen, and if there are linemen they can not use their hands to block an opponent. Defensive players cannot get in the way of a runner; they can only attempt to grab the flag without impeding the path of the runner. Offensive players are not allowed to hand block defensive players to prevent them from grabbing the flag.

In Contact flag football, none of the rules above apply. There are linemen blocking only around chest area, no chop blocks or blocks below the waist. Defensive players can get in the path of an offensive player to attempt to grab the flag. Offensive players can hand block defensive players attempting to grab the flag.

Organized flag football leagues follow a number of sets of rules, with variants including:

  • 9-man ineligible (with contact),
  • 8-man ineligible (with contact)
  • 8-man eligible (with or without contact),
  • 7-man eligible (with or without contact),
  • 6-man eligible (with or without contact),
  • 5-man eligible (with or without contact),
  • 4-man eligible (with or without contact), and
  • 4-man Colorado rules[1]


The sport has a strong amateur following and several national and international competitions each year sponsored by various associations.

The International Flag Football Federation sponsored World Cup of Flag Football featuring teams from the United States, Mexico and several other nations.

The International Woman's Flag Football Association hosts contact flag football tournaments across the world with participants from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and several other nations. The organization also known as the IWFFA is the largest organization for women and girls in the sport of flag football. The most active tournament is held each February in Key West, Florida, called the Kelly McGillis Classic where over 30 women and girls teams participate in 8on8 contact flag football.

The Unites States Flag and Touch Football League (USFTL) has a number of smaller organizations spread out over the US. Located in Ohio, this league supports a number of teams from the Mid Atlantic, NorthEast, and Midwest states.

The NFL conducts their own Youth World Championship for children 12–14 years of age. Held in different nations around the world, it is five man no contact football played between ten countries. Previous NFL Flag Football World Championships have been held in Toronto, Cologne, Mexico City, Tokyo, Vancouver and Beijing. The NFL has also at times sanctioned "Air It Out" competitions aimed primarily at its fans in which tournament-winning teams were allowed to compete against retired NFL All-Pros.

In the United Kingdom, flag football competition is organized by the British American Football League. At a senior level, it is played by fifteen teams divided into two regional conferences, with the top teams qualifying for playoffs at the end of the season. The league also organizes teams competing at youth, junior and cadet levels.[1]

See also

External links




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