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Touch is a field sport also known as touch football in Australia, Touch Rugby, and sometimes Six Down in South Africa.[1] Touch is overseen worldwide by the Federation of International Touch (FIT). Touch has traditionally been played in Australia and New Zealand but the sport is expanding internationally and features its own World Cup.

Touch originated from the sport of rugby league in the 1960s, with the tackle of opposing players replaced by a touch. Touch is therefore not a contact sport but a limited-contact sport.

Distinctive features of Touch include the ease of learning, minimal equipment requirements and the ability to play it without fear of major injury. While it is generally played with two teams of six players, some social competitions allow up to seven players per team on the field. It is played by both sexes, and in age divisions from primary school children to over-50s. The mixed version of the game (where both male and female players are on the field at the same time) is particularly popular with social players, and it is widely played in schools.



Touch started in Australia in the early 1960s as a social or "park" game and as a training technique for rugby league. It was not then viewed as a sport in its own right. It was formalised into a sport proper by the "Founders of Touch", Bob Dyke and Ray Vawdon of the South Sydney Junior Rugby League Club. On 13 July 1968 the "South Sydney Touch Football Club" was formed and the sport of Touch Football was born. The first official game of Touch was played in late 1968 and the first official competition, organised by Dyke & Vawdon, was held at Snape Park, Sydney in 1969. From these humble beginnings the game quickly became a fully regulated and codified sport. It was first played in Brisbane in 1972 and by 1973 there were representative games[2]. It had spread to New Zealand by 1975. [3][4].

The establishment of the national body, "The Australian Touch Football Association" came in 1976. A highlight came after the drawn Sydney Rugby League Grand Final of 1977 when the rematch needed a curtain-raiser and Rugby League officials asked the newly formed "Touch Football Association" to provide the prelude game. With a crowd of 40,000+ this game helped to raise the profile of Touch around the world and was nothing short of spectacular according to Bob Dyke in the book "The Story of Touch". Another profile raiser came in 1978 when the Sydney Metropolitan Touch Football side played the touring Great Britain national rugby league team in a high-scoring match, with the local team winning with a disputed touchdown on the siren. As more people began to play Touch, organised competitions developed.

The game has also expanded rapidly in recent years, especially in the South Pacific and United Kingdom. Touch World Cups now attract up to 20 nations including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, Lebanon, USA, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, England, Italy, Cook Islands, Fiji, Ireland, Malaysia, Kenya, Singapore, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Scotland, Wales, China, Chile, South Korea and the Channel Islands.

Glossary of Touch terms

Touch shares many terms in common with rugby league (eg cover-defence, offside, intercept). Below are some Touch-specific terms. The list is not meant to be comprehensive, and there are some regional variations.

  • Acting Half or Dummy-Half or just Half or Dummy: the player who receives the ball following the rollball
  • Dump or Quickie: a quick rollball to further attacking opportunities from the ensuing play. At levels above beginners these constitute all touches/roll balls.
  • Fade or Drag: an angled run forwards and towards the wing/sideline in an attempt to drag the defenders sideways and potentially open up gaps on the open side.
  • Link: The position on the field between the middles and the wings (the second player from the sideline).
  • Middle: The position on the field in the middle of the players (the third player from either side line).
  • Phantom: a defensive player claiming a touch when no touch had in fact been made. Frowned upon by the vast majority of players. A "yes/no" call is also regarded as a phantom. If spotted a phantom call results in a penalty, forced sub or sin bin.
  • Open Side: the side of the ball carrier with the most number of players.
  • Re-Align: when an attacker moves back into an onside position (behind the ball) after passing or making a touch.
  • Rollball: must be performed once a player in possession is touched by the opposition or after a turnover. The rollball is performed by placing the ball on the mark, and either rolling the ball backwards, or stepping forward over it. The ball is picked up by another player on the attacking team (see acting-half). Above a beginner level, players usually never actually roll the ball along the ground.
  • Ruck: any attacking move intended to promote the ball down the field rather than specifically result in a touchdown.
  • Scoop or Scoot: an attacking move following the dump, whereby a player runs from the half position in an attempt to get past the defensive line.
  • Short Side: the side to the ball carrier with the least number of players.
  • Snap: to beat (ie run past) an opponent by changing direction suddenly.
  • Squeeze: a type of zone defence used to force attacking players to move the ball to the wings to gain and/or take advantage of an overlap (by which time the defence should have had time to re-position itself).
  • Switch or Cut: an attacking move where the ball player passes to a receiver in the direction that the receiver has come from, as they run angled lines that cross over with the receiver running behind the ball carrier.
  • Touch: the main defensive tactic in the game of Touch, similar to a tackle in some other codes of football. It forces the attacking team to stop and restart play (see rollball). A touch is performed by the defensive team on any part of the body or clothing of the current ball carrier for the attacking team, or the ball itself. At the moment of a touch, it is customary (but not mandatory) for the defensive player who is performing the touch to shout "Touch", which alerts both the attacking and defensive teams and the referees that the player has been touched.
  • Wing: The position on the field at the side of the field (the player next to the sideline).
  • Wrap: a variation on the switch move involving where the ball carrier passes after the receiver as run behind them to the side that the receiver is running to.

How to Play

The main aim of touch is to score as many touchdowns as possible and prevent the opposition from scoring any. Most competitive teams have special offence and defence plays to do this.

  • teams are generally split into three positions: "wings" (the players on either side of the field ie. the 'right wing' and the 'left wing'); "links" (the players on the inside of the wings), and; "middles" (the players on the inside of the links.
  • in attack, the "middles" (who are the 'playmakers') primary job is to set up the play which gives their team the best opportunity to score a try. The links and wings generally follow directions of the middles as their job depends on the particular offence being played.
  • in defence, teams usually have a particular pattern or 'zone' defence involving all players

The winning team is the team with the most touchdowns at the end of the game.


These rules discuss the most common form of touch as governed by the Federation of International Touch but minor local variations are common. For the full set of rules see the F.I.T. Rulebook

Note that the sport of Touch has a number of recognised variations including:

  • Beach Touch, where the defence has one less player than the attack and as the name suggests, is played on beach.
  • 1-Touch, where the attacking team is allowed 1 possession to score before handing the ball over.
  • 2-Touch, same as above except the attacking team is allowed 2 touches.


A team normally retains possession for a set of six consecutive touches. Possession transfers to the opposing team:

  • after the sixth touch
  • after a touchdown;
  • if the acting-half gets touched;
  • from an intercept;
  • from a dropped ball or other failure to maintain possession;
  • whenever the referee indicates a turnover.


  • From the tap, the defending team must be at least 10 metres from point of the tap
  • After making a touch, the defending team must retreat the distance the referee marks, at least five metres from the mark where the touch occurred and stay there until the dummy-half touches the ball. If any players do not retreat the entire entire distance the referee marked, or they leave before the dummy-half has touched the ball, they will be penalised.
  • If a penalty is conceded, the defending team must retreat at least 10 metres from the mark of the penalty. If a player makes an attempt to defend whilst still inside the 10 metres, they will be penalised.


A touchdown (or try) is awarded when an attacking player places the ball on or over the opposition's try line. The aim is to score more touchdowns than the opposing team. A touchdown is worth one point and scored by placing the ball in the opponent's in-goal area. If the defending team gives away a penalty over their defensive line then a touchdown is also awarded.

Some local competitions operate special by-laws which allow multiple points to be awarded for touchdowns under various situations. The most common variation is awarding two points for a touchdown scored by a female player in a mixed game. Females are therefore encouraged to play more, because they can be twice as value as males. This is however, not mentioned in the official rules and a very uncommon rule.

If you are over the try line and drop the ball instead of touching the ball on the ground it is counted as a drop ball. It is then turned over–-this means the opposition is awarded the ball.


The acting-half is subject to a number of restrictions that do not apply to other players:

  • If the acting-half is touched with the ball, the attacking team loses possession.
  • The acting-half cannot score a touchdown. Attempting to do so results in a change of possession.
  • If the acting-half takes too long to retrieve the ball the referee can call play on and defenders are allowed to move forward before the acting-half has touched the ball.

The Tap

Play is started by a tap at the beginning of each half, following a touchdown and when a penalty is awarded.

  • The tap is performed by an attacking player placing the ball on the ground, touching the ball with their foot, then picking it up and playing. NB: The ball must be released from the hands and come into contact with the ground or a change of possession occurs.
  • The defensive team must stay at a minimum distance of 10 metres from the mark during the tap, unless they are positioned on their own scoreline.
  • The defensive players can move after the ball carrier has touched the ball with his foot.
  • The player who has performed the tap may be touched without losing possession.
  • The attacking side must be positioned behind the ball when it is tapped.
  • The attacking side may move the ball up to 10 metres directly behind the given mark when taking a penalty tap. In this case, the defending side must still remain 10-metres from the original mark, not the new mark.

The Penalty

A penalty is granted to the non-offending team if:

  • the ball travels more than one metre after the rollball is performed
  • the ball is passed forward.
  • a "touch and pass" is committed (a pass after being touched).
  • a player does not perform the rollball at the mark (overstepping).
  • an obstruction is committed.
  • a player is offside.
  • a defending player does not retreat in a straight line to an onside position.
  • a player acts contrary to the rules or spirit of the sport (eg time-wasting, using excessive force to make a touch, phantom touch (calling a touch when they clearly didn't make one), disputing decisions, etc).


  • Substitutions can be made any number of times throughout the match. However, the game remains continuous and does not stop to allow substitutions.
  • Players coming onto the field must wait until the player they are substituting with has come off the field. Failing to do so may result in a penalty for having too many players on the field.
  • Players in a team who are not on the field must remain inside their allocated substitution box until they come onto the field
  • Players can only enter the field in an onside position.


The field 
The ball 
  • Players typically wear light clothing such as T-shirts or polo shirts and shorts. All shirts must be numbered. Women generally wear lycra bike shorts, athletic briefs or swimsuit-style lycra bodysuits.
  • Players normally wear soft rubber cleated shoes, similar to those used in other grass sports such as cricket and field hockey. Screw-in cleats are strictly prohibited, though moulded-sole football boots may be worn.

Touch football must have at least one referee to rule the game but most major games feature three interchangeable referees.


The game must have a whistle to rule the game

Composition of the teams and replacements

  • The teams can be male, female or mixed.
  • Each team can consist of up to 14 players, of which 6 players can be on the field at any one time.
  • Mixed teams typically comprise 3 females and 3 males on the field at one time.
  • There is no limit to the number of substitutions a player or team can make.
  • Substitutions may be made at any time provided the players are in the designated substitution box. Play is continuous and does not stop for substitutions.

Mode of play and duration

Mode of play
  • The ball can be passed or knocked (but not kicked) sideways or backwards between team mates who attempt to evade opposition defenders and score touchdowns.
  • The standard duration is 40 minutes (two x 20 minute halves) with a 5 minute halftime, though other time frames are often used to suit local conditions and competitions.

Tied at fulltime In the event of a draw at fulltime (in a play-off or final), extra time of five minutes each way will be played (this may vary across regions/competitions). The team in front at the end of extra time wins the game. However, if the scores are still level, the teams enter a sudden death "drop-off" to find the winning team. A drop off will begin when the referee stops play. Each team loses one player every two minutes. The ref will re-start play after drop off. If a team scores from the tap off in sudden death, without the opposing team having had possession, the opposition have one set of six touches to score. If they don't score within those six touches the game is won by the first team that scored. [5] Alternatively, the drop-off will continue until each team is down to three players (in mixed competitions, teams are required to have at least one female still on the field). From this point, the game will continue until the next touchdown is scored and the winner is found.


International Competitions

World Cup

There have been six Touch World Cups since the first event in 1988. The next one will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2011 and is expected to attract a large contingent of European countries who have lately embraced the sport.

Trans-Tasman Tests

There is a regular program of Tests between Australia and New Zealand known as Trans-Tasman Tests.

Masters Games

Touch is a very popular sport at the various Masters Games events.

World All Schools

The World All Schools event attracts hundreds of teams from schools around the world. It is held every 2 years. In 2006 the event was held in Singapore, prior to that it was held in Brisbane. The 2008 event (held in Brisbane after the event was canceled in New Zealand) was by far the largest, hosting over 250 teams.

Touch football worldwide


Touch is played in every Australian state, and is particularly popular in the rugby league strongholds of Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT. There are currently over 250,000 registered Touch players, 500,000 schoolchildren, and up to 100,000 casual players playing the sport[7]. The peak body is Touch Football Australia.

Australia's main domestic competition is the annual National Touch League (NTL). 13 permits representing all parts of Australia compete in open, under-20 and over-age (Masters) divisions in men's, women's and mixed. The permits have been designed to equalise competition between the traditionally strong Touch states of ACT, Queensland and NSW and the remainder of the country.

Touch has a State-of-Origin series every 2 years. The series is played between Touch strongholds Queensland and New South Wales. Current Australian player Nathan Jones (Gold Coast) is currently ranked the number one player in Australia.

School Sport Australia runs the National Championship Tournament and Exchange for Touch every year - the location moves from state to state. Most Australian States and Territories enter Boys and Girls teams in both the High School (15 and under) and Primary School (12 and under) divisions.


There are over 12,000 Touch players in England.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, Touch is the largest participation sport in the country. From the ground roots to the elite program, Touch is widely accepted NZ as the sport of choice for a healthy and active lifestyle. This is illustrated with a total of 19 Provinces competing at Nationals, 119 affiliated 'modules' or competitions and over 317,000 New Zealanders playing the game.

This figure is made up of 57,000 under 17 year olds and 260,000 adults. The delivery of the sport is supported by: 750 qualified referees along with team coaches and managers and 119 competition organisers.

The NZ Touch National Championships are held each year in March and the National Touch Series is a televised mixed competition event. The annual New Zealand Secondary Schools Tournament attracts a large number of participants and continues to grow each year.

The National Body is Touch New Zealand.[2]


Touch has been played in Scotland since 1991 in informal leagues in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The sport soon spread to Aberdeen with a well established league forming soon afterwards.

In 2005, the Scottish Touch Association (STA) was formally constituted as the governing body to help develop the sport. By 2007 the association had welcomed new participants from Dundee, Perth and Stirling to join existing leagues, held its first formal national championships, trained over 150 referees and won the tender to host the 2011 World Cup in Edinburgh.

South Africa

Touch in South Africa is overseen by the South African Touch Association, and is often known as 'Six Down'. South Africa has had national representation at the 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007 Touch World Cups. There are already over 6,000 registered players in South Africa.


The Swiss Touch Association competed in 2006 and 2008 European Championships and 2007 World Cup. The STA also sends teams to contest regular events in other tournaments in Europe and won the Mainland Cup in Heidelberg in 2009 - coming 3rd in the Womens Open and 1st in the Mens Open competition. Clubs now exist in Geneva, Zurich and Basel.

United States

Though there are teams throughout the country, due to the relative novelty of the sport and the travelling distances, the national tournament is not as decisive as it is designed to be. There are big touch communities in Portland, OR (Home of the 2007 and 2008 national champions), Phoenix, AZ, Houston, TX, San Diego, CA, Boston, MA, Tigard, OR and Sandy, UT. The 2008 Men's National Championship was won by the Portland Hunters while the 2008 Mixed National Championship was won by the Cayman Islands Pirates. The 2008 Men's National MVP was Charles Sanderson.


The Österreichischer Touch Verband (Touch Austria Association) became an associate member of F.I.T (Federation International Touch) in October 2009 with 3 official member clubs (Touch Rugby Vienna, ACC Touch, Touch Voralberg). 2009 saw the establishment of the Austrian Touch League (ATL) plus the first ever national Touch teams (Mixed and Mens) that competed in the 2009 Mainland Cup. Touch Austria also sends teams to contest regular events in other tournaments in Europe.

See also


External links







New Zealand


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