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Official Rules of American 7s Football League (A7FL)

Table of Contents
  • Health & Welfare
  • Rosters and Player Compensation 
  • Field Size & Marking
  • Player/Team Equipment
  • Referees
  • Keeping Time
  • Keeping Score
  • Throw-Offs
  • Player Formations
  • Blocking
  • Line of Scrimmage
  • Pass Rushing
  • Offsides
  • Tackling
  • QB Set Position & Cadence
  • Receivers & Defensive Backs
  • Overtime
  • Mercy Rule
  • Player/Team Conduct

Health & Welfare

  • All players, coaches, referees and other league personnel must follow a in ll league health & welfare protocols, including those designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to protect against brain injuries/concussions/CTE, and to follow all such requirements from the venue/stadium, local health department or the Center for Disease Control.

Rosters and Player Compensation 

  • Each team may roster up to 30 players (minimum of 14). 
  • The roster must be complete with all players registered prior to the team’s first game. 
  • Teams may add/replace up to 5 players prior to the team’s first playoff game. After the start of the playoffs, no roster changes are permitted.
  • Each team may choose whether to compensate players provided that no team’s total player compensation may exceed the league’s Championship prize money for that season.

Field Size & Marking

  • The playing field shall be 120 yards long x 37.5 yards wide (or sideline to far hash mark).
  • The field shall be marked by painted lines as follows:

(a) The overall length of the playing field from the inside of one endline to the inside of the other endline shall be 120 yards. 

(b) The length of the field of play from the field side of one goal line to the field side of the other goal line shall be 100 yards.

(c) The width of the playing field from the inside of one sideline to the inside of the other sideline shall be 37.5 yards. 

  • Anything foreign to the playing field (such as a pitcher’s mound, soccer goal, or other obstruction) should be removed.
  • If the regulation length or width of a field is not available because of an obstacle that cannot be removed, a clear line of demarcation shall be established and painted at least 10 feet toward the playing surface from such obstacle which shall be considered the boundary line.

Player/Team Equipment 

  • All games must use the official A7FL football. 
  • All players must wear official team uniforms during games, with jerseys maintained in good condition (not cut away or altered in any way) and tucked in whenever possible, and no distracting jewelry, clothing or other accessories. Players shall not wear any non-league items, whether on the field or on the sideline, bearing any commercial or sponsor identifying marks (not including incidental names and logos).
  • No spectators are permitted on the sideline.  Teams can only have rostered players (in uniform) and up to 5 staff members (age 18 and over) on their sideline.
  • Teams must keep their sidelines clear of refuse and personal belongings such as chairs, bags and other items, and the referee may at their discretion penalize a team with repeated or egregious offenses for 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. Multiple infractions could result in a forfeit.
  • No hard pads are permitted.  Soft knee, thigh, and rib pads are permitted but they cannot have any hard plastic.  Compression shirts with the thin foam inserts are also permitted.  Thick “shock pad” type shoulder pads are not permitted.
  • The only permitted padded headgear are the Skull Caps and Bands supplied by 2nd Skull.  Rugby caps and thick head protection are not permitted.  Baseball caps, bucket hats and hoodies and any head gear that is loud or offensive is not permitted.  

Referees 

  • There must be at least 2 league-approved referees present for each game, unless otherwise authorized by the league.
  • Where there is a referee in the press box (or elsewhere) able to review replays, that referee shall assist the on field referees by reviewing any relevant footage. 
  • Referees shall not speak to the media about any controversial penalties called during a game, and players, coaches and other team personnel shall refrain from any public criticism of any referee decisions.  

Keeping Time

  • Each A7FL game shall consist of 4 x 15 minute quarters.
  • A quarter ends when time expires provided that if a play has already begun when time expires then the quarter shall continue until that play is completed.
  • During regulation time, the running clock will be stopped only during penalties, changes of possession and conversion attempts following a touchdown.  Once the ball is spotted by the official, the game and play clocks will both start.
  • A 30-second play clock will start running once the official has spotted the ball, blown the whistle and signaled for the clock to wind.  The play clock will run during regular game play, conversions, and throw-offs..
  • There is a 2-minute warning at the end of the 2nd and 4th quarters.
  • When there are less than 2 minutes left at the end of the 2nd and 4th quarters, the clock will stop after an Incomplete pass or if a player runs out of bounds..
  • Each team has 3 x 2-minute timeouts and 3 challenges per half. CHALLENGES ARE PERMITTED UNDER 2 MINUTES.

Keeping Score 

  • To score a touchdown, worth 6 points, a ball must be on, above or behind the plane of the opponent’s goal line while in the possession of (a) a runner before any part of his body hits the ground outside the endzone, (b) a receiver who has caught the ball in the endzone, or © another offensive player who has recovered a loose ball (fumble). The ball touching either a pylon or a cone placed at the front corner of the endzone will be considered breaking the plane of the goal line..
  • After a team scores a touchdown, they may attempt either a 1-point conversion (a single offensive play to get into the endzone from the 5 yard line) or a 2-point conversion (a single offensive play from the 10 yard line).  There is no kicking in the A7FL.
  • Once the offense has selected the type of conversion to attempt, the decision cannot be changed even if there is a penalty called on the play.  For example, if there is a defensive penalty after the offense has selected to go for a 2 point conversion, it will still be a 2 point try after the penalty is assessed.
  • A turnover (fumble or interception) during a conversion attempt cannot be advanced.
  • Conversions are untimed, only the play clock will run.
  • In the event of a safety (when a player with the ball is tackled behind their own goal line) , the defense will be awarded 2 points and the offense will have to throw-off from their own 25 yard line on the next play.

Throw-Offs 

  • To start each half (and after every score), the throwing team will throw the ball off from their own 35 yard line. 
  • A coin toss before the start of the game will determine which team initially throws off and which team returns (to be reversed at the start of the second half).
  • The throwing team will have 3 defensive players and the receiving team will have 1 offensive player to make the return.   For the throwing team, the player throwing the ball may utilize a running start but must throw the ball before crossing the 35 yard line and the 2 runners must be set on the 35 yard line and may only start running downfield once the ball is thrown. 
  • The throw off must travel a minimum of 40 yards in the air (i.e. to at least the opposing 25 yard line) and stay inbounds.  If the ball passes the back of the end zone on the fly, it will be a touchback and spotted at the receiving team’s 20 yard line.  If the ball lands in the end zone and has NOT been touched by the returner (and has traveled the minimum distance on the fly), it is considered a live ball and the returner may down the ball in the end zone or return it.
  • Penalties and Scenarios on Throw-Offs (all infractions will result in a dead ball foul and immediate whistle).
    The penalty for any of the below infractions will result in the returner lining up on his own 25 yard line with the ball in his hand instead of awaiting a throw-off.  The throwing team will line up on their own 35 yard line.  Once both teams are ready, the official will blow the whistle to start the 3-on-1 play to be referred to as a “Run Back.” Substitutions are not permitted during throw-off infractions.
  • Penalties that result in a Run Back:
    – Ball thrown out of bounds
    – Offsides on the throwing team
    – Ball did not reach the opposing 25 yard line on the fly
    – Play clock violation on the throwing team (note: a play clock violation on the receiving team will result in a 10 yard penalty that will be assessed on the next possession).
  • Fair Catch Rules:
    A returner may opt for a fair catch on all throw-offs by clearly waving his hand from side to side above his head.  Once the signal is acknowledged by the official, the play will be blown dead so the returner can attempt the catch.  If the player drops the attempted fair catch, his team will still maintain possession but the offense will be penalized 10 yards from where the catch was attempted.
  • On throw-offs during 4th downs (in place of a punt), the throw off will occur from the line of scrimmage, there is no minimum distance required for the throw and it can go out of bounds without a penalty. Returners can return the throw-off, opt for a fair catch or not field the throw-off at all.  If the returner decides not to field and/or touch the ball, once the throwing team downs the ball or the ball has stopped rolling, the play will be blown dead.

Player Formations 

  • The offense must line up with at least 2 down lineman, who are ineligible to receive a pass, and a quarterback, all of whom must start each play from a set position. The 2 offensive linemen must be on the line of scrimmage with a split no wider than 1 yard.  The quarterback must split the difference between his linemen while in shotgun or lined up closer to the line of scrimmage.
  • The other 4 offensive players may line up in any formation with only 1 player able to go in motion at a time.
  • The quarterback may start from the shotgun or behind the lineman. He must be in between the 2 down linemen or if there are 3 down linemen he can be on the center.  The quarterback may not be deeper than 5 yards from the line of scrimmage when in the shotgun.  Wherever he is positioned, the quarterback starts the play with the ball in his hands.
  • Any eligible receiver lining up near an offensive linemen on the line of scrimmage must raise their hand and declare themselves a Tight End.  
  • The defense may line up in any formation.

Blocking 

  • Holding while attempting to block is prohibited, even inside the jersey. The penalty for holding will be 10 yards from the original line of scrimmage and the offense will repeat the down.
  • Clipping (blocking behind the back) will result in a 15 yard penalty from the original line of scrimmage. Blocking in the back is only permitted inside the tackle box behind the line of scrimmage while a defender is being pass blocked.
  • Chop or cut blocking (blocking below the waist) will result in a 15 yard penalty from the original line of scrimmage.
  • Intentional hands to the face will result in a 15 yard penalty from the original line of scrimmage.
  • Blind siding a defender who has no chance to make the play is prohibited. If a player blind sides an opposing player who is at least 10 yards away from the play, he will receive a 15 yard penalty. Depending on the severity of the infraction, the referee may also choose to eject the player. 
  • On offense, a player and potential blocker can not peel back for a blind side crack back block.  If a blocker has to turn towards his own endzone to make a block, it will be a personal foul.

Line of Scrimmage 

  • The referee shall determine the line of scrimmage before the start of each play and use a flat orange cone to mark it.  No body part from either team can be over any part of the cone/ line of scrimmage.  If either an offensive or defensive player lines up offsides when the ball is hiked, it will be a 5 yard penalty.  
  • A defensive player is not permitted to attempt to draw the offense offsides either verbally or physically.

Pass Rushing 

  • Late hits on the quarterback or any ball carrier are prohibited.
  • If a defensive player has a blind side shot on the quarterback, he must hit him high. If the quarterback cannot see him, a defensive player may not not lower his shoulder into the quarterback’s back or legs.
  • Defenses may rush as many players as they wish and blitz at any time.  

Offsides 

  • If a play starts and a player is lined up offsides, a 5 yard penalty will be assessed. If the call is against the defense, the offense will have a free play. However, if the defender has a clear path to the quarterback because of his being offsides, then it will be blown dead.
  • If any offensive player other than the quarterback moves early, the play will be blown dead and the ref will call for a “reset”.  The play clock will continue to wind when a reset is called.  If a defensive player moves early, the whistle will blow, the play clock will reset to 30 seconds, and the play will be immediately reset.  The referees have discretion whether to call a penalty for defensive and offensive offsides in order to keep the game moving, preventing long discussions and explanations about offsides, and keeping the offense from having to re-huddle.

Tackling 

  • Wrap tackling is required: defensive players must attempt all tackles by wrapping up the ball carrier (i.e. with defensive player’s head to the side or up and arms to the sides grabbing the offensive player). Throwing a shoulder or elbow to try and knock the offensive ball carrier down is prohibited. Head down or throwing their body at the ball carrier’s legs with no attempt to wrap up, will be flagged 15 yards.
  • The only circumstance when it is acceptable to forego wrap tackling is when forcing a player out of bounds.
  • No head hunting or clothes lining. Wrapping around an offensive player’s neck or head is prohibited and will result in a 15 yard penalty and, at the referee’s discretion, potential suspension for 1 quarter.
  • Once a ball carrier is lifted off his feet or his forward progress is stopped, the play will be blown dead.
  • Any tackle above the offensive ball carrier’s jersey nameplate is prohibited.
  • If the player is down and another player jumps on the pile (i.e. piles on), that player will be ejected.
  • Tackling below the knees is only permitted if the player is the first available tackler and he attempts to wrap up. If he is the second tackler, then he must hit above the waist (as well as attempt to wrap tackle).
  • Leg whipping or tripping is prohibited.

QB Set Position & Cadence 

  • Prior to the start of each play, the quarterback must be set (the same as the offensive lineman and receivers). If the QB moves early (rolls before cadence), his team will be assessed a 5 yard penalty. 
  • All quarterback cadences must consist of 3 sounds and the offense can move on any of the 3 sounds. For example if the cadence is “Down, Set, Go” the offense can go on either “Down,” “Set,” or “Go” but there is no going on 2 or trying to draw the defense offsides.  
  • If the quarterback needs to audible and has already started his cadence, he must stand up and point both arms to each sideline while yelling “CHECK.”  Once the audible is complete, the quarterback must get set again and restart his entire cadence.

Receivers & Defensive Backs 

  • A receiver must catch, secure and maintain possession of the ball to the ground for a play to be ruled a catch.
  • A player must have one foot in bounds when he catches and secures the ball for a play to be ruled a catch.  If a player is pushed and doesn’t land in bounds with one foot down, he is considered out of bounds.
  • A receiver is considered a runner once he secures the ball and is able to ward off a defender.
  • Defensive holding (ie a defensive back holding receiver) is prohibited and will result in a 5 yard penalty with an automatic first down (not a spot foul).
  • If a defensive player makes contact with a receiver who doesn’t have the ball more than 5 yards from the line of scrimmage, the defense will be assessed a 5 yard penalty plus an automatic first down.  
  • If a defensive player makes contact with a receiver on a pass to that receiver that is ruled catchable, ii’s considered pass interference and a spot foul will be assessed.
  • Defensive backs may not launch themselves at a defenseless receiver without attempting to wrap up and make a good form tackle.
  • Defensive backs may blitz but must obey the above Pass Rushing Rules.

Overtime

  • If the 4th quarter ends with a tie score, the game will go to overtime with each team guaranteed at least one possession.
  • In order to win during overtime, a team needs to get a stop and a score (an interception or fumble returned for a touchdown ends the game). 
  • There will be a new coin toss to determine first possession. At the start of each team’s possession, the ball will be spotted at the 25 yard line with the ability to get 2 first downs.  Each team will have 1 time out with a 30 second play clock. 
  • After the second overtime period, teams will be forced to attempt the 2 point conversion. 

Mercy Rule

  • If a team is leading by 7 touchdowns at the start of the 4th quarter, the referees will stop the game and the score at that time will be deemed the final score.

Player/Team Conduct  

  • Referees have discretion to call 15 yard penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct for cursing at a referee, threats to fight, making a “dirty” hit, excessive pushing or shoving after a play, vulgar trash talk or any offense that results in an ejection. 
  • The use of profane, obscene or insulting language (including remarks based upon race, sexual orientation or religion, or obscene gestures), under any circumstances, either to an opponent, official or spectator, is prohibited and this applies to all persons within the Coaches’ areas, as well as to players on the field. Such offenses will be subject to disciplinary action beyond any penalty applied during the game. 
  • The league has a zero tolerance policy for fighting.  A player who throws a punch, whether it lands or not, will be suspended for the rest of the season. Depending on a team’s actions during this type of infraction, the league may suspend or fine the entire team.  If that same team has another player throw a punch again during that same season, the team will be suspended for the remainder of the season with no opportunity for refunds or prize money based on any standings. 
  • The A7FL also follows a “3 strikes and you’re out” policy regarding any type of  unsportsmanlike conduct After the second offense, the player will receive a warning along with a second penalty and after the third offense the player will be ejected from the game and receive a 2-game suspension to be served immediately following the game just played.
  • Any player or coach ejected for the game must immediately leave the facility.  Players ejected for a quarter may remain on the sideline.

 

COPYRIGHT 2021 A7FL Licensing LLC. All Rights Reserved. A7FL® and American 7s Football® are trademarks of the A7FL.

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