Official Rules of American 7s Football League (A7FL)
Table of Contents
- Health & Welfare
- Rosters and Player Compensation
- Field Size & Marking
- Player/Team Equipment
- Keeping Time
- Keeping Score
- Player Formations
- Line of Scrimmage
- Pass Rushing
- QB Set Position & Cadence
- Receivers & Defensive Backs
- Mercy Rule
- Player/Team Conduct
- Penalties Summarized
Health & Welfare
- All players, coaches, referees and other league personnel must follow all 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 35 players maximum for inter-division/out of division gameplay, games between two teams from different divisions. Roster maximum for in-division gameplay, games between two teams from the same division, is set individually by each division owner prior to the start of season. Minimum roster is 14 players. (updated 3/17/2023)
- All players must be registered through the A7FL registration portal in order to play.
- Players may not be traded and can not switch teams after opening day.
- 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.
- A coach, manager, trainer, player, officer, executive or any other person connected, directly or indirectly, with a Team is prohibited from: Wagering on any game being played or to be played by a Team.
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.
- 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).
- All players must wear a mouthpiece/mouthguard that fits properly, during practice and games. (updated 3/17/2023)
- 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 headbands supplied by 2nd Skull. Rugby caps and thick head protection are not permitted. Baseball caps, bucket hats, snow hats, ski masks/face masks, hoodies (not rolled and tucked in) and any head gear that is loud or offensive is not permitted.
- 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.
- 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. If a foul is committed as time expires and penalty is accepted the following play will be untimed in the quarter it occurred in.
- 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. A ready for play whistle is only to be used after clock stoppage ie. a penalty, injury, change of possession, score, timeout, end of period. A wind signal will be given if the game clock is to be run in unison with the play clock. 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 with forward progress. If the player goes out laterally or backwards the clock will continue to run.
- Under 2 minutes deliberate delaying of the game will result in a 5 yard loss by the offender and the option by the offendee to have a 10 second runoff.
- Each team has 3 x 30 seconds timeouts per half and 3 challenges per game permitting a team has a timeout to use. CHALLENGES ARE PERMITTED UNDER 2 MINUTES. (Penalties can not be challenged) (updated 5/13/22)
- 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.
- 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 returner touches the ball in the field of play and then downs in the endzone this will result in a safety.
- The returner can make an attempt to bat the ball back in from the field of play from in bounds, recover the bat, and continue as a returner.
- Any recovery by the throwing team (of a live ball) under no circumstance can be advanced. (updated 5/13/22)
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. If a player becomes injured on the play, the throwing team will have the option to play the down with the two players or also keep the injured player on the field.
- Penalties that result in a Run Back:
– Ball thrown out of bounds
– Offsides on the throwing team
– Ball did not reach the yard mark distanced 40 yards from the throw, on the fly. **If the returner opts to catch the ball short of the 25 yard line, there is no penalty and the play is live**
– Play clock violation on the throwing team
- Play Clock begins once the BJ is set on the throwing line.
- (note: a play clock violation will result in a 10 yard penalty that will be assessed on the next possession for its first offense. Second offense is a throw off.
- If the returner positions himself out of bounds with a part of his body in bounds and touches the ball the ball will be dead and considered out of bounds.
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, a whistle will be blown killing the play, and R will still maintain possession but will be penalized 10 yards from where the catch was attempted.
- If a player does NOT signal for a fair catch AND/OR muffs the football the ball is live and can be recovered by K but NOT advanced.
- If a fair catch is attempted and dropped in the end zone the play will also result in a safety.
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.
- 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.
- If an ineligible lineman raises their hand after a Tight End has been declared then no Tight End will be able to go downfield that play unless the QB “checks” for an audible at which time a Tight End can be clearly declared or the team calls for a timeout. (updated 5/13/22)
- Offensive linemen are allowed up to 5 yards upfield on any given offensive play type, which includes forward passes. (updated 3/17/2023)
- No Tight End can be declared after the QB starts his cadence unless the QB “checks” for an audible at which time a Tight End can be clearly declared or the team calls for a timeout. (updated 5/13/22)
- If a team lines up with two tight ends on one side of the formation, one of them must be lined up off the line of scrimmage for them both to be eligible.
- The defense may line up in any formation.
- Holding is permitted inside the breastplate of the defender until the QB escapes the pocket. If the defender gets outside the framework of the offensive lineman, he must let go. The penalty is 10 yards from the spot of the foul, unless the foul occurs behind the line of scrimmage in which the foul becomes enforced from the previous spot. The offense will repeat the down, unless after enforcement the play still results in a first down. Clipping (blocking behind the back) will result in a 15 yard penalty. The penalty is 15 yards from the spot of the foul, unless the foul occurs behind the line of scrimmage, in which the foul becomes enforced from the previous spot. The offense will repeat the down, unless after enforcement the play still results in a first down. 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. A blind side block going back to one’s own endzone or against an opposing player who is at least 10 yards away from the play is prohibited. This will result in a 15 yard penalty, from the previous spot or added to the end of the run, whichever is more advantageous for the offendee. Depending on the severity of the infraction, the referee may also choose to eject the player.
Line of Scrimmage
- The referee shall determine the line of scrimmage before the start of each play and use a flat 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 may jump offsides and attempt to get back on sides before the ball is snapped. If a defensive player is offside at the snap and does not have an unimpeded line to the QB the foul will be ‘live’ and no whistle blown. A free play for the offense.
- A defensive player is not permitted to attempt to draw the offense offside either verbally or physically. A defender may jump offsides and attempt to get back onside before the snap.
- QB’s must become set for at least 1 second before snapping the ball. A QB may not spin the ball in their hands after starting their cadence. (updated 3/17/2023)
- Late hits on the quarterback or any ball carrier are prohibited. Resulting in a dead ball 15 yard penalty enforced from the end of the run.
- 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 lower his shoulder into the quarterback’s back or legs. This will result in a roughing the passer penalty, 15 yards from the previous spot, and an automatic 1st down.
- Defenses may rush as many players as they wish and blitz at any time.
- 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.
- Wrap tackling is required: defensive players must attempt all tackles by wrapping up the ball carrier (i.e. with the 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. Though this hit still must be above the waist for no wrapping to be voided.
- 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. 15 yards unnecessary roughness.
- Hair is a part of the uniform and any tackle by the hair (that comes down past the ball carrier’s nameplate on the back of the jersey) is legal. (updated 3/17/2023)
- 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. 10 yards from the previous spot.
- If a defender is giving chase from an angle or behind a ball carrier, the defender is allowed to dive and swipe at the runners feet in order to get the runner down. This is also known as a shoestring tackle. This is 1 of the 2 circumstances when it is legal for a defender to ‘not attempt to wrap tackle’. (updated 3/17/2023)
- Any arm or hand to the head will result in illegal use of hands to the face. 15 yard penalty.
- A ball carrier can use the ball for balance to stay up and advance the ball. The ball can come into contact with the ground while in control of the runner & even when touched while the ball is in contact with the ground the runner is not considered down. If the runner loses control of the ball under these circumstances, this will be considered a live ball fumble. (updated 3/17/2023)
- An untouched ball carrier can get up and advance the ball. (updated 3/17/2023)
- 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. These 3 sounds for a cadence can be whatever the offense chooses, though it cannot change over the course of the game. Even if a new QB comes into the game the cadence must remain the same.
- QB’s must become set for at least 1 second before snapping the ball. A QB may not spin the ball in their hands after starting their cadence. (updated 3/17/2023)
- 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.
- A QB may throw the ball away if an eligible receiver is in the area, or to an area where there is no eligible receiver if under duress and outside the hashes. In the latter situation the ball must cross the LOS. If neither of the above are met its intentional grounding. 5 yards from the spot and LOD.
- All forward passes must be thrown behind the LOS. The players entire body along with the ball must be over the LOS for it to be considered illegal. 5 yards from the spot and LOD.
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 receiver cannot go out of bounds on their own and be the first to touch the ball. If a receiver is forced out of bounds, they can re-establish by making an immediate return, getting two feet back into the field of play and becoming the first to touch the ball.
- 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. 3 step rule, a football move.
- 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.
- Pass interference
- Defense: restriction begins once the ball becomes airborne
- Preventing an offensive eligible receiver from making a play on a legal forward pass.
- Spot of the foul and automatic first down. Foul in the endzone will result in the ball being placed at the 1.
- Offense: restriction begins at the snap. It is the offense’s responsibility to avoid contact with the defense.
- Contact with defender who has an established mark on the field (ie pushing off on a curl pattern when defender is positioned at break landmark).
- Picking for a teammate past 1 yard from the LOS.
- Intentional contact with the defender that prevents the defender from making a play on the ball while the ball is in the air.
- 15 yards from the previous spot.
- Defense: restriction begins once the ball becomes airborne
- Defensive backs may not launch themselves at a defenseless receiver without attempting to wrap up and make a good form tackle. 15 yards.
- Defensive backs may blitz but must obey the above Pass Rushing Rules.
Runners running with the football may not lower their head into a defender or apply a hand to the face when stiff arming. Both infractions will result in a 15 yard penalty from the spot.
- 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.
- In the 4th quarter if a team is up by 4 or more scores the offense cannot use their timeouts.
- 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.
- Betting on any aspect of a league game, including without limitation the result, by anyone affiliated with the league, including without limitation players, coaches, referees, sidelines officials, team owners and executives, is strictly prohibited and subject to immediate disciplinary action. Anyone connected with a team, in any capacity, shall refuse to accept any bribe, whether in cash or in kind, calculated to influence in any way the result of a game, and any such offer must be reported to immediately to the A7FL.
- 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 including post-season (updated 6/15/2023). 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.
Except for DPI, no penalty shall exceed half the distance to the goal
LOSS OF A DOWN
Illegally handing ball forward … (spot)
Intentionally throwing backward pass out of bounds … (spot)
Illegal forward pass by Team A … (spot)
Intentionally grounding forward pass … [spot of foul]
Forward pass illegally touched by player out of bounds … (previous)
Illegally batting ball … (basic)
Illegally kicking ball … (basic)
Automatic 1st Down
Defensive pass interference … (spot)
Defensive holding on eligible receiver … (previous)
Illegal contact (defense) … (previous)
Roughing the passer … (previous)
Targeting defenseless player … (spot)
Horse collar tackle … (spot)
Late hit out of bounds … (spot)
Unsportsmanlike … (basic)
LOSS OF FIVE YARDS
Delay after three timeouts expended… (previous) DEAD
Illegal delay of the game … (previous) DEAD
Disconcerting offensive signals … (previous) DEAD
Illegal Substitution … (previous) DEAD
More Than 7 Players in the formation or during the play … (basic) LIVE
Putting the ball in play before it is ready … (previous) DEAD
Exceeding 40/25-second count … (previous) DEAD
Illegally handing the ball forward … (previous) LIVE
False start or simulating start of a play … (previous) DEAD
Encroachment (offense) at snap … (previous) DEAD
Offensive player illegally in motion at the snap … (previous) LIVE
Illegal formation … (previous) LIVE
Illegal shift …( previous) LIVE
Offside (defense) … (previous) DEAD
Abrupt defensive actions … (previous) DEAD
Intentionally throwing backward pass out of bounds … (spot) LIVE
Illegal forward pass … (spot) LIVE
Ineligible receiver downfield … (previous) LIVE
Forward pass illegally touched … (previous) LIVE
Illegal contact (defense) … (previous) LIVE
LOSS OF 10 YARDS
Holding or obstruction … (basic) LIVE
Illegal block in the back … (basic) LIVE
Illegal use of hands … (previous) LIVE
Delay of game on Throw Off … (succeeding spot) LIVE
Illegally batting loose ball (spot) … LIVE
Illegally batting a backward pass … (spot) LIVE
Illegally kicking ball (spot) LIVE
LOSS OF 15 YARDS
Tackling or blocking fair-catcher … (spot) DEAD
Offensive pass interference … (previous) LIVE
Defensive pass interference … (spot) LIVE
Targeting / head hunting … (basic) LIVE
Clipping … (spot) LIVE
Blocking below the waist … (basic) LIVE
Late Hit/action out of bounds … (spot) DEAD
Roughing the passer … (previous) LIVE
Chop Blocking … (previous) LIVE
Horse Collar Tackle … (spot) LIVE
Blind side block / crack back … (spot) LIVE
Unsportsmanlike … (basic) DEAD
Fighting … (basic) DEAD
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