Flag Football

Flag Football is played on a 40 yard X 100 yard field including endzones.

Major Differences Between Flag Football (NIRSA Rules)

And Tackle Football (NFHS Rules)

The NIRSA flag football rules are based and consistent with NFHS rules. The differences are based on the field size and the nature of pulling a flag to down a runner. It is also considered to be a non-contact sport.


Flag Football will utilize 3 officials; Referee, Line Judge and Back Judge. A Linesman may be added as a fourth official.


Flag Football plays on a 100 yard field (300 feet instead of 360) divided into 4 different 20 yard zones and 10 yard end zones. The width of the field is 40 yards (120 feet instead of 160).  The inbounds marks are 15 yards (45 feet instead of 53’4”) from the sidelines.  In the event of field limitations, the 20 yard zones may be shortened to equal lengths.  However, the end zones must be 10 yards.  Team boxes are located two yards from the sideline from 20 yard line to 20 yard line.


  1. Jersey

Players of opposing teams shall wear contrasting jersey colors, without pockets, numbered on front and/or rear. Players of the same team shall wear the same colored jerseys with different numbers.  The visiting team is responsible for avoidance of similarity of colors. Jerseys shall be long enough to remain tucked into the pants/shorts or short enough so that there is a minimum of 4” between the bottom of the jersey and the top of the player’s waist line (pants/shorts).  The referee may use a fist to measure the distance between the player’s waist line and the bottom of the jersey.

  • Pants/Shorts

The pants/shorts shall be a different color than the flags (flag belt).  The shorts may not have belt loops or pockets.

  • Flag Belt

Each player shall wear a one piece quick release belt, without any knots, at the waistline with 3 flags permanently attached, 1 flag on each side and 1 flag in the center of the back. The flags shall be a minimum of 2” wide and 14” long when measured from the edge of the belt.  The flags should be a contrasting color than the opponent.  The belt must have a spring loaded clip.  Players not having flags that are located along the right and left side as well as the tailbone shall be replaced if they can not meet these requirements.  Breaking the huddle without a flag belt or shoes will result in a dead ball foul for failure to wear required equipment.

  • Shoes

Shoes shall be made of a canvas, leather, or synthetic material that covers the foot attached to a firm sole of leather, rubber, or composition material that may have cleats or be cleatless. Cleats are limited to studs or projections that do not exceed 1/2″ in length and are made with nonabrasive rubber or rubber-type synthetic material that does not chip or develop a cutting edge. Rubber cleats with a tipped metal material are legal.

Optional Player Equipment

  1. Elastic Bandage. Players may use an elastic bandage no more than 2 turns thick in any given area. It can be anchored at each end by tape not to exceed 2 turns.
  2. Gloves. Players may wear gloves that must consist of a soft, pliable, and nonabrasive material.
  3. Headwear. Players may wear a knit or stocking cap. The cap will have no bill. It can have a knit ball on top. Players may wear a headband no wider than 2″ and made of nonabrasive, unadorned, single-colored cloth, elastic, fiber, soft leather, or rubber. Rubber or cloth elastic bands may be used to control hair. Players may wear a soft rubber hat.
  4. Pads. Players may wear soft, pliable pads on the lower leg, knee, and ankle. Soft and yielding padded compression shorts and shirts are legal apparel.
  5. Mouth and Tooth Protector. It is strongly recommended (not required)that a mouth piece be worn by all players.
  6. Play Books. Players may carry a play book inside their clothing made of a yielding material only and must not be visible. If carried on the field, a player must keep the play book rather than throw it on the ground. Players may wear a soft, pliable wrist/forearm band that contains plays.
  7. Sunglasses. Players may wear pliable and non-rigid sunglasses.
  8. Face Shield. Players may wear a face shield molded to the face with no protrusions to protect against a facial injury.

Illegal Player Equipment

            A player wearing illegal equipment shall not be permitted to play.  This applies to any equipment that, in the opinion of the Referee, is dangerous or confusing.  Penalty: Unsportsmanlike Conduct, Illegal Player Equipment, 10 yards (S27).

Types of equipment or substances that shall always be declared illegal include the following:

  1. Headwear containing any hard, unyielding, stiff material, including billed hats, or items containing exposed knots. EXCEPTION: Face shield.
  2. Jewelry
  3. Pads or braces worn above the waist. Casts worn above or below the waist.
  4. Shoes with ceramic, screw-in, detachable cleats, or any projecting metal. EXCEPTION: Screw-in cleats are allowed if the screw is part of the cleat.
  5. Shirts or jerseys that do not remain tucked in. Any hood on a coat, sweatshirt, or shirt that does not remain tucked in. Tear-away jerseys or jerseys that have been altered in any manner that produces a knot-like protrusion or creates a tear-away jersey. Jerseys that have an arm opening more than 4″ below the armpit. The Referee will use a fist to measure the distance of the jersey arm opening.
  6. Pants or shorts with any belt(s), belt loop(s), pocket(s), or exposed drawstring(s).
  7. Leg and knee braces made of hard, unyielding material, unless covered on both sides and all edges overlapped, and any other hard substance unless covered with at least 1/2″ of closed-cell, slow-recovery rubber, or other material of similar thickness and physical properties.
  8. Any slippery or sticky foreign substance on any equipment or exposed part of the body.
  9. Equipment that includes computers or any electronic or mechanical devices for communication.    
  10. Exposed metal on clothes or person. This includes “O” or “D” rings used to secure flag belts.    
  11. Towels attached at the player’s waist.  
  12. Flags that can be detached from the flag belt.    
  13. Hand warmers worn around the waist.

The Game

The game shall be played by two teams of 7 players each.  Four (4) players are required to start the game and avoid a forfeit.  The game may be continued with fewer than 4 players as long as the team has a chance to win.  If in doubt, continue the game. A team is awarded a new series of downs by reaching a zone line to gain (20, 40, 20).

Playing Time

The game consist of four (4) quarters of twelve (12) minutes each.  During the 1st and 3rd quarters and first 10 minutes of the 2nd and 4th quarters (first 22 minutes of each half) the clock will be a running clock stopping only for scores, team time outs, injuries or some other unusual delay.  The clock will start on the snap following team time outs.  The clock will start on the snap that follows the extra point attempt on scores. (the clock will not run during extra point attempts). 

Two Minute Warning

The clock will be stopped at the 2 minute mark of each half.  The referee will notify both teams of the time outs remaining.  The clock will stop and start as regular game clock.  The clock will start on the snap following the 2 minute warning.  Note:  once teams have been notified of the time and time outs remaining, play will resume.


A Touchdown counts 6 points.  Extra point(s) may be attempted from the 3 yard line for one point, the 10 yard line for two points and the 20 yard line for 3 points.  Teams may not kick for points.  Prior to a legal snap of an extra point attempt, Team A may change the placement of the ball and point value if a time out or any dead ball foul prior to the ready for play.  Following the extra point(s) attempt, the opposing team will put the ball in play by snap at the 14 yard line (6 yards from the nearest zone line to gain on modified fields).  Following a safety the ball will be put in play from the 30 yard line.


A punt is the only legal kick in flag football.  A quick kick is illegal.  Team A must announce to the Referee that they will punt prior to the ball being marked ready for play.  Neither team may enter the neutral zone until the ball is kicked.  The kicker must punt the ball immediately after receiving the snap.  The kicker may not kick the ball to any teammate (including the kicker).  Team B (or team R) may block the punt once it has been kicked.  Once the ball is touched by either team and strikes the ground, the ball is dead at that spot.  Note:  K may catch a muff by R (beyond the neutral zone) and obtain a new set of downs.  When the kick breaks the plane of R’s goal line, it is a touchback and the ball will be placed at the 14 yard line.

Flag belt removal and dead ball spot

The ball shall be spotted at the forward most point of the ball when the flag belt has been removed.  When a flag belt has inadvertently fallen from the runner, an opponent may down the runner by one hand touch anywhere between the runner’s shoulders and knees.  The defender may touch the opponent anywhere other than the face and neck area when attempting to remove a flag belt.  The defender may dive (leave their feet) to remove a flag belt. It is a foul to pull the flag of a non-runner.  If it is a potential receiver it is defensive pass interference. The ball is dead at the spot it hits the ground following a muff, backward pass or fumble. It belongs to the team last in possession.

Putting ball in play

The offensive team is responsible for retrieving and maintaining the ball.  The officials will place an orange ball spotter for where the ball is to be snapped.  The official will place a gold (or yellow) ball spotter one yard from the orange ball spotter to indicate the neutral zone for the defense.


There are no requirements as to the number of players on the line of scrimmage.  All A players are eligible to receive a pass.  No player of either team may enter the neutral zone on an announced punt until the ball has been kicked.  Players may use a 2, 3 or 4 point stance.

Blocking (non-contact)

Flag football is a non-contact sport.  A player must screen block (similar to setting a screen in basketball) with arms to the side or behind the blocker’s back.  The blocker must give a moving opponent a chance to stop or change direction.  The blocker must give the opponent at least one step on a blindside screen.  The defensive team may not use hands or body to push (move) a blocker. 

Guarding the flag belt

The runner may not stiff arm or use the ball, hands or arms to prevent a defender from removing the flag belt.  The defender should not make contact with the ball (illegal batting) when in player possession.  The defender may contact a loose ball.

Ready for Play

The Referee shall declare the ball ready for play after the ball spotters have been placed and the down and zone line to gain have been announced.  The offensive team will have 25 seconds to snap the ball after the ready for play whistle has been sounded.

Penalty Enforcement

Penalties are enforced utilizing the all but one principle with few exceptions indicated by rule.  Penalty yardage is either 5 or 10 yards.