End zone

Last updated
A player rushes into the red-painted end zone, scoring a touchdown during a USC college football game. 120107-LA-USC-UCLA05-TDMcKnight.jpg
A player rushes into the red-painted end zone, scoring a touchdown during a USC college football game.

The end zone is the scoring area on the field, according to gridiron-based codes of football. It is the area between the end line and goal line bounded by the sidelines. There are two end zones, each being on the opposite side of the field. It is bordered on all sides by a white line indicating its beginning and end points, with orange, square pylons placed at each of the four corners as a visual aid (however, prior to around the early 1970s, flags were used instead to denote the end zone). Canadian rule books use the terms goal area and dead line instead of end zone and end line respectively, but the latter terms are the more common in colloquial Canadian English. Unlike sports like association football and ice hockey which require the ball/puck to pass completely over the goal line to count as a score, both Canadian and American football merely need any part of the ball to break the vertical plane of the outer edge of the goal line.


A similar concept exists in both rugby football codes, where it is known as the in-goal area. The difference between rugby and gridiron-based codes is that in rugby, the ball must be touched to the ground in the in-goal area to count as a try (the rugby equivalent of a touchdown), whereas in the gridiron-based games, simply possessing the ball in or over the end zone is sufficient to count as a touchdown.

Ultimate frisbee also uses an end zone scoring area. Scores in this sport are counted when a pass is received in the end zone.


The end zones were invented as a result of the legalization of the forward pass in gridiron football. Prior to this, the goal line and end line were the same, and players scored a touchdown by leaving the field of play through that line. Goal posts were placed on the goal line, and any kicks that did not result in field goals but left the field through the end lines were simply recorded as touchbacks (or, in the Canadian game, singles; it was during the pre-end zone era that Hugh Gall set the record for most singles in a game, with eight).

In the earliest days of the forward pass, the pass had to be caught in-bounds and could not be thrown across the goal line (as the receiver would be out of bounds). This also made it difficult to pass the ball when very close to one's own goal line, since merely dropping back to pass or kick would result in a safety (rules of the forward pass at the time required the passer to be five yards behind the line of scrimmage, which would make throwing the forward pass when the ball was snapped from behind one's own five-yard line illegal in itself).

Thus, in 1912, the end zone was introduced in American football. In an era when professional football was still in its early years and college football dominated the game, the resulting enlargement of the field was constrained by fact that many college teams were already playing in well-developed stadiums, complete with stands and other structures at the ends of the fields, thereby making any substantial enlargement of the field unfeasible at many schools. Eventually, a compromise was reached: 12 yards of end zone were added to each end of the field, but in return, the playing field was shortened from 110 yards to 100, resulting in the physical size of the field being only slightly longer than before. Goal posts were originally kept on the goal lines, but after they began to interfere with play, they moved back to the end lines in 1927, where they have remained in college football ever since. The National Football League moved the goal posts up to the goal line again in 1933, then back again to the end line in 1974.

A Canadian football field, with 20-yard-deep end zone and goal post on the goal line CFL Western Final 2007 (2197332902).jpg
A Canadian football field, with 20-yard-deep end zone and goal post on the goal line

As with many other aspects of gridiron football, Canadian football adopted the forward pass and end zones much later than American football. The forward pass and end zones were adopted in 1929. In Canada, college football has never reached a level of prominence comparable to U.S. college football, and professional football was still in its infancy in the 1920s. As a result, Canadian football was still being played in rudimentary facilities in the late 1920s. A further consideration was that the Canadian Rugby Union (the governing body of Canadian football at the time, now known as Football Canada) wanted to reduce the prominence of single points (then called rouges) in the game. Therefore, the CRU simply appended 25-yard end zones to the ends of the existing 110-yard field, creating a much larger field of play. Since moving the goal posts back 25 yards would have made the scoring of field goals excessively difficult, and since the CRU did not want to reduce the prominence of field goals, the goal posts were left on the goal line where they remain today. However, the rules governing the scoring of singles were changed: teams were required to either kick the ball out of bounds through the end zone or force the opposition to down a kicked ball in their own end zone in order to be awarded a point. By 1986, at which point CFL stadiums were becoming bigger and comparable in development to their American counterparts in an effort to stay financially competitive, the CFL reduced the depth of the end zone to 20 yards.


A team scores a touchdown by entering its opponent's end zone while carrying the ball or catching the ball while being within the end zone. If the ball is carried by a player, it is considered a score when any part of the ball is directly above or beyond any part of the goal line between the pylons. [1] In addition, a two-point conversion may be scored after a touchdown by the same means.

In Ultimate Frisbee, a goal is scored by completing a pass into the end zone. [2]


The end zone in American football is 10 yards long by 53+13 yards (160 feet) wide. A full-sized end zone in Canadian football is 20 yards long by 65 yards wide. Prior to the 1980s, the Canadian end zone was 25 yards long. The first stadium to use the 20-yard-long end zone was B.C. Place in Vancouver, which was completed in 1983. The floor of B.C. Place was (and is) too short to accommodate a field 160 yards in length. The shorter end zone proved popular enough that the CFL adopted it league-wide in 1986. [3] At BMO Field, home to the Toronto Argonauts, the end zones are only 18 yards. [4] Like their American counterparts, Canadian endzones are marked with four pylons.

In Canadian football stadiums that also feature a running track, it is usually necessary to truncate the back corners of the end zones, since a rectangular field 150 yards long and 65 yards wide will not fit completely inside an oval-shaped running track. Such truncations are marked as straight diagonal lines, resulting in an end zone with six corners and six pylons. As of 2019, Montreal's Percival Molson Stadium is the only CFL stadium that has the rounded-off end zones.

During the CFL's failed American expansion in the mid-1990s, several stadiums, by necessity, used 15-yard end zones (some had end zones that were even shorter than 15 yards); only Baltimore and San Antonio had the endzones at the standard 20 yards.

Ultimate Frisbee uses an end zone 40 yards wide and 20 yards deep (37 m × 18 m). [5]

The goal post

Goal post at one end of a college football field Angelo State vs. Texas A&M-Commerce football 2015 22 (A&M-Commerce field goal).jpg
Goal post at one end of a college football field

The location and dimensions of a goal post differ from league to league, but it is usually within the boundaries of the end zone. In earlier football games (both professional and collegiate), the goal post began at the goal line, and was usually an H-shaped bar. Nowadays, for player safety reasons, almost all goal posts in the professional and collegiate levels of American football are T-shaped (resembling a slingshot), and reside just outside the rear of both end zones; these goalposts were first seen in 1966 and were invented by Jim Trimble and Joel Rottman in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. [6]

The goal posts in Canadian football still reside on the goal line instead of the back of the end zones, partly because the number of field goal attempts would dramatically decrease if the posts were moved 20 yards back in that sport, and also because the larger end zone and wider field makes the resulting interference in play by the goal post a less serious problem.[ citation needed ]

At the high school level, it is not uncommon to see multi-purpose goal posts that include football goal posts at the top and a soccer net at the bottom; these are usually seen at smaller schools and in multi-purpose stadiums where facilities are used for multiple sports. When these or H-shaped goal posts are used in football, the lower portions of the posts are covered with several inches of heavy foam padding to protect the safety of the players. [7]


An XFL field, including end zone featuring the league's logo XflNight.JPG
An XFL field, including end zone featuring the league's logo

Most professional and collegiate teams have their logo, team name, or both painted on the surface of the end zone, with team colors filling the background. Many championship and bowl games at college and professional level are commemorated by the names of the opposing teams each being painted in one of the opposite end zones. In some leagues, along with bowl games, local, national, or bowl game sponsors may also have their logos placed in the end zone. In the CFL, fully painted end zones are nonexistent, though some feature club logos or sponsors. Additionally, the Canadian end zone, being a live-ball part of the field, often features yardage dashes (usually marked every five yards), not unlike the field of play itself.

In many places, particularly in smaller high schools and colleges, end zones are undecorated, or have plain white diagonal stripes spaced several yards apart, in lieu of colors and decorations. One notable use of this design in major college football is the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who have both end zones at Notre Dame Stadium painted with diagonal white lines. In professional football, since 2004, the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL have the south end zone at Acrisure Stadium (formerly Heinz Field) painted with diagonal-lines during most of the regular season, with the north end zone featuring only the city name of Pittsburgh in yellow. This is done because Acrisure Stadium, which has a natural grass playing surface, is also home to the Pittsburgh Panthers of college football and the markings simplify field conversion between the two teams' respective field markings and logos, with both teams sharing a secondary yellow color, but each having different primary colors. After the Panthers' season is over, the Steelers logo is painted in the south end zone. [8]

Likewise, some end zones are painted in tribute to a recently deceased team figure or fan, as is done with the Steelers' AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, where the city name is painted as usual in the end zone, except for the "MO" portion, which is painted in gold or white in tribute to the late Mo Gaba, a young fan of both the Ravens and Orioles. [9]

One of the major quirks of the American Football League was its use of unusual patterns such as argyle in its end zones, a tradition revived in 2009 by the Denver Broncos to celebrate the team's 50th anniversary, Denver itself a former AFL team. The original XFL standardized its playing fields so that all eight of its teams had uniform fields with the XFL logo in each end zone and no team identification.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canadian football</span> Canadian team sport

Canadian football, or simply football, is a sport in Canada in which two teams of 12 players each compete on a field 110 yards (101 m) long and 65 yards (59 m) wide, attempting to advance a pointed oval-shaped ball into the opposing team's end zone.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Goal line (gridiron football)</span> Line in American football and Canadian football

The goal line is the chalked or painted line dividing the end zone from the field of play in gridiron football. In American football the goal lines run 10 yards (9.1 m) parallel to the end lines, while in Canadian football they run 20 yards (18 m) parallel to the dead lines. In both football codes the distance is measured from the inside edge of the end line to the far edge of the goal line so that the line itself is part of the end zone. It is the line that must be crossed in order to score a touchdown.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Touchdown</span> Means of scoring in both American and Canadian football

A touchdown is a scoring play in gridiron football. Whether running, passing, returning a kickoff or punt, or recovering a turnover, a team scores a touchdown by advancing the ball into the opponent's end zone. More specifically a touchdown is when any part of the football, in the possession of an offensive player, crosses the goal line while the player, as well as the ball, is inbounds, and the player is upright. In order for a player to be down, any part of their body other than their hands or feet must touch the ground. If a player falls down without being contacted by a defensive player, whether or not they are down varies by league.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Goal (sports)</span> Method of scoring in many sports

In sport, a goal may refer to either an instance of scoring, or to the physical structure or area where an attacking team must send the ball or puck in order to score points. The structure of a goal varies from sport to sport, and one is placed at or near each end of the playing field for each team to defend. For many sports, each goal structure usually consists of two vertical posts, called goal posts, supporting a horizontal crossbar. A goal line marked on the playing surface between the goal posts demarcates the goal area. Thus, the objective is to send the ball or puck between the goal posts, under or over the crossbar, and across the goal line. Other sports may have other types of structures or areas where the ball or puck must pass through, such as the basketball hoop. Sports which feature goal scoring are also commonly known as invasion games.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gridiron football</span> Team sport primarily played in North America

Gridiron football, also known as North American football, or in North America as simply football, is a family of football team sports primarily played in the United States and Canada. American football, which uses 11 players, is the form played in the United States and the best known form of gridiron football worldwide, while Canadian football, which uses 12 players, predominates in Canada. Other derivative varieties include arena football, flag football and amateur games such as touch and street football. Football is played at professional, collegiate, high school, semi-professional, and amateur levels.

This is a glossary of terms used in Canadian football. The Glossary of American football article also covers many terms that are also used in the Canadian version of the game.

  1. Legally positioned at the kick-off or the snap. On kick-offs, members of the kicking team must be behind the kick-off line; members of the receiving team must be at least 10 yards from the kick-off line. On scrimmages, at the snap the offence must be behind the line of scrimmage; the defence must be at least one yard beyond the line of scrimmage.
  2. A player of the kicking team who can legally recover the kick. The kicker and any teammates behind the ball at the time of the kick are onside. Thus on kick-offs all players of the kicking team are onside, but on other kicks usually only the kicker is. The holder on a place kick is not considered onside.
  1. A defensive position on scrimmages, also called free safety. Typical formations include a single safety, whose main duty is to cover wide receivers. See also defensive back.
  2. A two-point score. The defence scores a safety when the offence carries or passes the ball into its own goal area and then fails to run, pass, or kick the ball back into the field of play; when this term is used in this sense, it is also referred to as a safety touch.
<span class="mw-page-title-main">Comparison of American and Canadian football</span> Differences between the two most common types of gridiron football

American and Canadian football are gridiron codes of football that are very similar; both have their origins partly in rugby football, but some key differences exist between the two codes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Safety (gridiron football score)</span> Scoring play in gridiron football

In gridiron football, the safety or safety touch is a scoring play that results in two points being awarded to the scoring team. Safeties can be scored in a number of ways, such as when a ball carrier is tackled in his own end zone or when a foul is committed by the offense in its own end zone. After a safety is scored in American football, the ball is kicked off to the team that scored the safety from the 20-yard line; in Canadian football, the scoring team also has the options of taking control of the ball at its own 35-yard line or kicking off the ball, also at its own 35-yard line. The ability of the scoring team to receive the ball through a kickoff differs from the touchdown and field goal, which require the scoring team to kick the ball off to the scored-upon team. Despite being of relatively low point value, safeties can have a significant impact on the result of games, and Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats estimated that safeties have a greater abstract value than field goals, despite being worth a point less, due to the field position and reclaimed possession gained off the safety kick.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Touchdown celebration</span> Celebrations in gridiron football

In gridiron football, touchdown celebrations are sometimes performed after the scoring of a touchdown. Individual celebrations have become increasingly complex over time, from simple "spiking" of the football in decades past to the elaborately choreographed displays of the current era.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">97th Grey Cup</span> 2009 Canadian Football championship game

The 97th Grey Cup was played on November 29, 2009, at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alberta, and decided the Canadian Football League (CFL) champion for the 2009 season. The Montreal Alouettes came from behind to defeat the Saskatchewan Roughriders 28–27, on a 33-yard field goal by Damon Duval as time ran out. Duval had actually missed a first attempt, but Saskatchewan was penalized for having too many men on the field, allowing Duval a second field goal attempt.

The 64th Grey Cup was played on November 28, 1976, at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. The Ottawa Rough Riders defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders 23–20 in what is considered one of the most thrilling Grey Cup games, featuring some of the most exciting plays in Grey Cup history.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">78th Grey Cup</span> 1990 Canadian Football championship game

The 78th Grey Cup was the 1990 Canadian Football League championship game played between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Edmonton Eskimos at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Blue Bombers defeated the Eskimos, 50–11.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">48th Grey Cup</span> 1960 Canadian Football championship game

The 48th Grey Cup was the Canadian Football League's (CFL) championship game of the 1960 season on November 26, 1960.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Field goal</span> Means of scoring in gridiron football

A field goal (FG) is a means of scoring in gridiron football. To score a field goal, the team in possession of the ball must place kick, or drop kick, the ball through the goal, i.e., between the uprights and over the crossbar. The entire ball must pass through the vertical plane of the goal, which is the area above the crossbar and between the uprights or, if above the uprights, between their outside edges. American football requires that a field goal must only come during a play from scrimmage while Canadian football retains open field kicks and thus field goals may be scored at any time from anywhere on the field and by any player. The vast majority of field goals, in both codes, are placekicked. Drop-kicked field goals were common in the early days of gridiron football but are almost never attempted in modern times. A field goal may also be scored through a fair catch kick, but this is also extremely rare. In most leagues, a successful field goal awards three points.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">American football field</span> Type of sports field

The rectangular field of play used for American football games measures 100 yards (91.44 m) long between the goal lines, and 160 feet (48.8 m) wide. The field may be made of grass or artificial turf. In addition, there are end zones extending another 10 yards (9.144 m) past the goal lines to the "end lines", for a total length of 120 yards (109.7 m). When the "football field" is used as unit of measurement, it is usually understood to mean 100 yards (91.44 m), although technically the full length of the official field, including the end zones, is 120 yards (109.7 m). The total area of the field is 57,600 sq ft or 5,350 m2. There is a goal centered on each end line, with a crossbar 10 feet (3.0 m) above the ground and goalposts 18 feet 6 inches (5.64 m) apart extending at least 35 feet (11 m) above the crossbar. Between the goal lines, additional lines span the width of the field at 5-yard intervals. This appearance led to the use of the term gridiron in the 1880s. For a few years in the early 20th century, lines perpendicular to the lines at 5-yard intervals spanned the length of the field, giving it a checkerboard-like appearance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2007 BC Lions season</span>

The 2007 BC Lions season was the 50th season for the team in the Canadian Football League and their 54th season overall. They finished first in the West Division for the fourth consecutive season with a 14–3–1 record, establishing new franchise records for wins and points in a season and most consecutive first-place finishes. They were defeated in the Western Final 26–17 by the Saskatchewan Roughriders, ending their hopes of repeating their Grey Cup Championship.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Two-point conversion</span> Play in American and Canadian football

In gridiron football, a two-point conversion or two-point convert is a play a team attempts instead of kicking a one-point conversion immediately after it scores a touchdown. In a two-point conversion attempt, the team that just scored must run a play from scrimmage close to the opponent's goal line and advance the ball across the goal line in the same manner as if they were scoring a touchdown. If the team succeeds, it earns two additional points in addition to the six points for the touchdown, for a total of eight points. If the team fails, no additional points are scored.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Punt (gridiron football)</span> Kick downfield to the opposing team in gridiron football

In gridiron football, a punt is a kick performed by dropping the ball from the hands and then kicking the ball before it hits the ground. The most common use of this tactic is to punt the ball downfield to the opposing team, usually on the final down, with the hope of giving the receiving team a field position that is more advantageous to the kicking team when possession changes. The result of a typical punt, barring any penalties or extraordinary circumstances, is a first down for the receiving team. A punt is not to be confused with a drop kick, a kick after the ball hits the ground, now rare in both American and Canadian football.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Conversion (gridiron football)</span> Football scoring play

The conversion, try, also known as a point(s) after touchdown, PAT, extra point, two-point conversion, or convert is a gridiron football play that occurs immediately after a touchdown. The scoring team attempts to score one extra point by kicking the ball through the uprights in the manner of a field goal, or two points by passing or running the ball into the end zone in the manner of a touchdown.


  1. "NFL Rules Digest: Field". Nfl.com. Archived from the original on 2011-02-24. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
  2. "WFDF Rules of Ultimate 2013 – Introduction". wfdf.org. 2013. Archived from the original on 2 March 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  3. "FAQ about Game Rules and Regulations on CFLdb". cfldb.ca. Archived from the original on 2015-04-04. Retrieved 2015-05-08.
  4. "CFL Videos - Highlights and Analysis from the Canadian Football League". Archived from the original on 2019-01-04. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  5. "Playing Field". wfdf.org. 2013. Archived from the original on 2 March 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  6. "Touchdown for Canada!". En Ville. (Montreal, Quebec, Canada). March 18, 1967. p. 3. Archived from the original on January 22, 2022. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  7. Penta, F.; Amodeo, G.; Gloria, A.; Martorelli, M.; Odenwald, S.; Lanzotti, A. Low-Velocity Impacts on a Polymeric Foam for the Passive Safety Improvement of Sports Fields: Meshless Approach and Experimental Validation. Appl. Sci. 2018, 8, 1174. https://doi.org/10.3390/app8071174 Archived 2023-10-24 at the Wayback Machine
  8. Bouchette, Ed (October 24, 2009). "What happened to the gold-colored end zones?". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on October 24, 2023. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  9. Kasinitz, Aaron (September 28, 2020). "Why Baltimore Ravens' end zone has 'MO' painted in purple" . Retrieved 2020-10-01.