Flag football

Last updated
Flag Football
A game of flag football being played at the University of Texas.
Highest governing body
First played
Contact Limited
Team membersTwo teams of 4-10
Equipment Ball, flag
Venue Football field
Country or regionWorldwide
Olympic No
Paralympic No
World Games Yes, 2022 invitational sport

Flag football is a variant of American football where, 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. The sport has a strong amateur following and several national and international competitions each year sponsored by various associations.


In flag football, contact is limited between players. The international governing body for the sport is the International Federation of American Football (IFAF). In 2022, flag football was shortlisted as a proposed discretionary event for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.


The creation of the game of Flag Football can be attributed to Porter Wilson, who was the man who invented flag-a-tag belts & flags used as equipment [1] [2] [3] to play the sport.[ citation needed ]

The best available records to date point to the early 1940s during World War II as the sport's starting point. [4] [5] The game began as a recreational sport created for American military personnel to help them stay fit but was designed in a way that would help prevent them from becoming injured during wartime. At the time it was called "Touch and Tail football", which then became "flag football" after the war ended. [6]

The first known recorded history of flag football can be traced to Fort Meade, Maryland, USA, which is now generally accepted as the sport's birthplace. The first national flag football organization, the National Touch Football League, was formed in the 1960's in St. Louis, Missouri. Since 1971, the league has had a national championship game. [7]

Basic rules

The specific rules of flag football vary widely by league, though all share in common their replication of the rules of traditional US-American football with tackling replaced by flag-pulling.

Traditional American football rules are often eliminated or modified to reflect the more recreational nature of the game, the desire to avoid physical contact and injury, and the generally smaller number of participating players per side.


Flag football is sometimes played on sand. Japanese team on Beach Flag Football XOKA5210bs (15749928216).jpg
Flag football is sometimes played on sand.

Chiefly, because there is no dominant sanctioning organization for the sport, the game has mutated into many variations: 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, and 4 players on each side; coed or single-gender; with kicking and punting and with point-after conversions (including some with 1, 2, and 3 point tries) or without; and field sizes that vary from full Canadian Football League (CFL) size, National Football League (NFL) size (120 yards long by 5313 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 / CFL, 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. [8]

The ability or inability for the quarterback to advance the ball past the line of scrimmage (LOS) by running is another rule subject to variation by league.

The sport is also played on surfaces other than a traditional grass football field, including on sand beaches; beach flag football has previously featured as a discipline at the Asian Beach Games. [9]

IFAF Flag Football World Championship

The IFAF Flag Football World Championship is normally conducted every two years.

IFAF Flag Football World Championship 2021

The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) had selected Israel to host the Flag Football World Championships for 2021 IFAF Flag Football World Championship with World Games places up for grabs. The Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem, was originally scheduled to stage the men's and women's events, however, due to expected high winds the games were played at Teddy Stadium.

An IFAF event record of 39 men's and women's teams combined, spanning 22 countries, competed at the tournament in Israel. Normally conducted every two years, Denmark was scheduled to host the 2020 edition only for it to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States retained their men's and women's titles at the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) World Flag Football Championships in Jerusalem. The US fought back in both finals, against Mexico to successfully defend their world crowns.

We love the game of American football and are so proud to see the sport’s popularity continue to grow internationally in its various forms, including flag football... [10]

Robert Kraft, New England Patriots owner and Kraft Group chairman and CEO, International Federation of American Football News, 15 March 2021

Women's gold

Against Mexico in the women's gold-medal match, the Americans scored 12 unanswered points in the second period to seal a 31-21 victory. In the semi-finals the US beat Austria 33-6, and Mexico beat Brazil 47-6 to reach the final.

I'm extremely proud of our women coming together...They were dedicated to the mission at hand, and they succeeded.

US head coach, Chris Lankford

Men's gold

The US Mens team too rallied from behind against Mexico to a 44-41 victory and retain their world title. A 35-6 win over Panama sent the US through to the final, and Mexico beat Italy 36-35 to join them in the tournament's showpiece contest. [11]

Mexico played extremely well, but through the entire process our team made a statement...They represented their country, the programme, themselves, and their families well and I’m proud of them.

US head coach, Bryan Garcia

Other nations

Flag of Austria.svg Austria defeated Brazil 26-13 to win the women's bronze medal.

Flag of Panama.svg Panama edged out Italy 45-40 in the men's third-place playoff.

Medal table

1Flag of the United States.svg  United States 5106
2Flag of Austria.svg  Austria 3104
3Flag of France.svg  France 1034
4Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 1001
5Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark 0426
6Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico 0213
7Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 0202
8Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 0022
9Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 0011
Flag of Thailand.svg  Thailand 0011
Totals (10 entries)10101030


In July 2022, the National Football League (NFL) and the IFAF partnered on a bid for flag football to be included as an optional event during the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Executive VP of football operations Troy Vincent stated that the sport was "the future of American football", as it was inclusive and had fewer barriers to access. [12] The NFL had sponsored the inclusion of flag football as an invitational event during that month's 2022 World Games—a multi-sport event featuring sports and disciplines not currently contested at the Olympics—in Birmingham, Alabama. The men's tournament was won by the United States, and the women's tournament by Mexico. [13] [14] In August 2022, flag football was shortlisted as one of nine sports advancing to the next phase of the bid process. [15]

North America

Children playing the sport in Mexico 04142012Infantil290.JPG
Children playing the sport in Mexico

NFL Flag

The National Football League and its teams have promoted and sponsored flag football leagues in the United States as a youth sport under the branding NFL Flag; in 2020, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson became a chairman and co-owner of NFL Flag, as part of efforts by the NFL to expand its promotion of the sport into other territories. The program has also placed a particular focus on expanding women's flag football, due to gridiron football having predominantly been played by men. [16] [17]

American Flag Football League

On June 28, 2017, the inaugural game for the newly formed American Flag Football League was played. [18] The league plans to launch eight league-owned teams for 2018. [19]

Canadian Flag Football League

The Canadian Flag Football League (CFFL) was established in 2019 and runs Canada's CFFL National Championship. [20] The league is affiliated with Football Canada, the national governing body for football in Canada and its variants. The winners of the CFFL National Championship also gain the opportunity to represent Canada in international competition.

The league's major objective is to help integrate existing adult flag leagues on a nationwide basis. Depending on the region, teams compete in their Regional Championships, either Eastern, Western, or Central. The top two teams from each division will advance to the national championship.

There are three divisions for the CFFL: male, female, and mixed.

Varsity sport


In May 2020, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), in partnership with the NFL, announced the addition of flag football as a varsity sport for female student-athletes. [21] The NAIA became the first collegiate governing body to sanction the sport at the varsity level.

Women's flag began during the 2020–21 season as an emerging sport with at least 15 teams, and the NAIA and NFL also expected an upgrade of the sport to an invitational level sport by 2022 with at least 25 teams. [22]


Player at the point of taking other player's flag at a game at Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Mexico City. 03092012Borrego plata42.jpg
Player at the point of taking other player's flag at a game at Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Mexico City.

International Woman's Flag Football Association

The International Woman's Flag Football Association, otherwise known as the IWFFA, hosts 8 on 8 flag football tournaments and flag football trainings across the world with participants from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Scotland and several other nations. The organization 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 90 women and girls teams participate in 8 on 8, semi - blocking contact flag football. There are no restrictions to for girls and women to play.

International Federation of American Football

The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) organizes the IFAF Flag Football World Championship every two years since 2002.

International Flag Football Festival

The International Flag Football Festival (IFFF) organizes the World Cup of Flag Football featuring teams from the United States, Mexico and several other nations.

United Kingdom

Flag football competition in the United Kingdom is 5-a-side and organized by The British American Football Association (BAFA). At a senior level as of 2021, there are fifty eight teams divided into six divisions, Highland (North Division), Northern (West Division), Southern (East Division), Northern (East Division), Southern (Wales Division), and Southern (West Division) [23] with the top teams qualifying for playoffs at the end of the season. As of 2021 the league will also run The Youth Flag Football League (YFFL) [24] and organize teams competing at under 17, under 14, and non-competitive under 11. [25] [26] Flag matches in the UK are played with five players on each side with no contact, and are officiated according to the IFAF flag football rules with a few minor variations. [27] The U17s and U14s compete in the National Youth Flag Football League, which runs from April to August, with teams battling it out to qualify for National Finals Day and ultimately be crowned National Champions.

The U11s take part in various regional festivals throughout the year. [28]

BAFA National Flag finals


Under 14s
2021South Coast Spitfires4420Leicester Huntsmen
2022Houghton Bears3427Leicester Huntsmen
Under 17s
2021South Coast Spitfires2018Coventry Cougars
2022Nuneaton Jaguars198Northants Titans
Mixed Adult
2022London Smoke4233Cardiff Hurricane
Adult Division 1
2022Reading Devils5227Swansea Hammerheads
2021 Final Standings
1. South Coast Spitfires1. South Coast Spitfires
2. Leicester Huntsmen2. Coventry Cougars
3. Chorley Buccanneers Cutlasses3. Waveney Wolves
4. London Blitz4. South London Renegades
5. Nuneaton Jaguars5. London Blitz
6. Solent Red Storm6. Brighton & Hove Scorpions
7. Houghton Bears
8. Chorley Buccaneers Blades

See also

Related Research Articles

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