Flag football

Last updated
Flag Football
A co-ed game of flag football being played at the University of Texas.
Contact Limited
Team membersTwo teams of 2-3
Mixed gender Yes
TypeOutdoor, indoor, team sport, ball game
Equipment Ball, flag
Venue football field
Country or regionWorldwide
Olympic Yes
Paralympic Yes

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, and contact is not permitted between players.



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; without 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. [1]

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.


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.

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

IFAF Flag Football World Championship 2021

The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) has 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, is scheduled to stage the men's and women's events.

Normally conducted every two years, Denmark was scheduled to host the 2020 edition only for it to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic..

“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,” said Robert Kraft, New England Patriots owner and Kraft Group chairman and CEO [2]

The United States men and women are the current flag football world champions after winning the gold at the FFWC held in Panama in 2018. The other pre-tournament favorites on the men's side are the reigning silver medalists Austria, the reigning European champions Denmark and Mexico. Israel is currently ranked 5th. On the women's side, joining the U.S. as favorites are silver medalists Panama, the reigning European champions Spain, as well as Austria and Canada.

The World Games 2022 Birmingham

July 20th the International World Games Association (IWGA), National Football League (NFL), and International Federation of American Football (IFAF) July 2020, announced that Flag Football will join the existing lineup of 32 unique, multi-disciplinary sports. [3]

The Games which mark the 40th anniversary of the event, will take place from July 7- 17, 2022. Hosted at Birmingham's historic Legion Field. Flag Football 2022 World Games will feature eight men's teams and eight women's teams from around the world.

As current reigning world champions, [4] the United States men's and women's teams both pre-qualify for The World Games 2022. The remaining seven teams will be selected through the IFAF qualifying process [5]

“We’re so excited to bring flag football to the international stage during The World Games 2022 in Birmingham. Flag football expands the sport of football by providing easier access to our game for men and women from all walks of life. With a huge international platform like this, we’ll create opportunities for kids and adults around the world to experience and learn the game of football, while helping grow the sport’s global popularity.” [5]

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks Quarterback, Super Bowl Champion and NFL FLAG Chairman

North America

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

On June 28, 2017, the inaugural game for the newly formed American Flag Football League was played. [6] The league plans to launch eight league-owned teams for 2018. [7]

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. [8] The NAIA became the first collegiate governing body to sanction the sport at the varsity level. Women's flag will begin during the 2020–21 season as an emerging sport with at least 15 teams, the NAIA and NFL also expect upgrade the sport to an invitational level sport by 2022 with at least 25 teams. [9]

NFL FLAG is the largest youth flag football league in the U.S. An NFL licensed property for girls and boys ages 5-17, NFL FLAG has more than 1,600 locally operated leagues and over 500,000 youth athletes across all 50 states. In 2020, Superbowl champion and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was named co-owner and chairman of NFL FLAG in an effort to help grow the sport worldwide. [10]


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.

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

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


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) [11] 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) [12] and organize teams competing at under 17, under 14, and non-competitive under 11. [13] [14] 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. [15] 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. [16]

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 omitted, changed or simplified to reflect the more recreational nature of the game, desire to avoid physical contact and injury, and the generally smaller number of participating players per side.

See also

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  10. NBC Sports. "Seahawks QB Russell Wilson becomes co-owner and chairman of NFL FLAG" . Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  11. https://www.britishamericanfootball.org/2021/05/national-flag-football-league-2021-schedule-and-alignments/
  12. https://www.britishamericanfootball.org/2021/05/youth-flag-football-league-2021-schedule-and-alignments/
  13. "BAFACL Flag South". BAFA Community Leagues. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  14. "BAFACL Flag North". BAFA Community Leagues. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  15. "BAFA Rules Committee - Flag football". British American Football Referees' Association. Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
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