Flag football


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.

Flag Football
A game of flag football being played at the University of Texas.
Highest governing body
First played
Team membersTwo teams of 4-10
EquipmentBall, flag
VenueFootball field
Country or regionWorldwide
World GamesYes, 2022 invitational sport

In flag football, contact is limited between players. The international governing body for the sport is the International Federation of American Football (IFAF). It is an invitational sport for the 2022 World Games which is scheduled to be hosted in Birmingham, Alabama in the United States.[1]


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[2][3][4] 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.[5][6] 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.[7]

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.[8]

Basic rulesEdit

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.


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.[9]

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.

IFAF Flag Football World ChampionshipEdit

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

IFAF Flag Football World Championship 2021Edit

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 goldEdit

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 goldEdit

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 nationsEdit

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

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

Medal tableEdit

1  United States5106
2  Austria3104
3  France1034
4  Canada1001
5  Denmark0426
6  Mexico0213
7  Germany0202
8  Italy0022
9  Panama0011
Totals (10 nations)10101030

World GamesEdit

For the first time the World Games will feature flag football as an invitational sport during the 2022 World Games which will be hosted in Birmingham, Alabama in the United States.

The World Games 2022 BirminghamEdit

The 2022 World Games, which will mark the 40th anniversary of the event, will take place from July 7- 17, 2022. Hosted at Birmingham's historic Legion Field, Flag Football will feature eight men's teams and eight women's teams from around the world. In 2021 World Games uploaded a beginner's guide to World Games Flag Football.[12]

As current reigning world champions,[13] the United States men's and women's teams both pre-qualify for the 2022 World Games. The remaining seven teams will be selected through the IFAF qualifying process[14]

North AmericaEdit

Children playing the sport in Mexico

Flag football as a sport was created by Americans in the 1940s where it remains the most popular today.

American Flag Football LeagueEdit

On June 28, 2017, the inaugural game for the newly formed American Flag Football League was played. [15] The league plans to launch eight league-owned teams for 2018.[16]

Canadian Flag Football LeagueEdit

The Canadian Flag Football League (CFFL) was established in 2019 and runs Canada's CFFL National Championship.[17] 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 sportEdit


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.[18] 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.[19]

NFL FlagEdit

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 Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson was named co-owner and chairman of NFL FLAG in an effort to help grow the sport worldwide. [20]


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 AssociationEdit

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 FootballEdit

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

International Flag Football FestivalEdit

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 KingdomEdit

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)[21] 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)[22] and organize teams competing at under 17, under 14, and non-competitive under 11.[23][24] 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.[25] 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.[26]

2021 BAFA National Youth Flag finalsEdit

2021 BAFA National Youth Flag finals[27]

Under 14s
South Coast Spitfires 44 20 Leicester Huntsmen
Under 17s
South Coast Spitfires 20 18 Coventry Cougars
2021 Final Standings
U14s U17s
1. South Coast Spitfires 1. South Coast Spitfires
2. Leicester Huntsmen 2. Coventry Cougars
3. Chorley Buccanneers Cutlasses 3. Waveney Wolves
4. London Blitz 4. South London Renegades
5. Nuneaton Jaguars 5. London Blitz
6. Solent Red Storm 6. Brighton & Hove Scorpions
7. Houghton Bears
8. Chorley Buccaneers Blades

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The World Games 2022 Sports programme". Retrieved 2020-08-27.
  2. ^ "US Patent for Flag football device Patent (Patent # 5,709,621)". patents.justia.com. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  3. ^ "Flag Football Belt Device Patent Grant Wilson May 25, 1 [Wilson; Porter C.] - USPTO .report". uspto.report. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  4. ^ "Flag football belt device". patents.google.com. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  5. ^ "Academics, Physical Education, Course, Team-Sports, Flag Football" (PDF). Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  6. ^ "Flag Football" (PDF). Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  7. ^ "6 Things You Didn't Know About Flag Football". i9sports.com. i9sports.com. Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  8. ^ "When did flag football start in the United States?". idswater.com. 5 July 2020. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  9. ^ "Flag Football Plays - Lineman and Blocking". Best Flag Football Plays. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2021-03-15. Retrieved 2021-03-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "United States retain titles at World Flag Football Championships".
  12. ^ World Games (25 June 2021). "A Beginner's Guide to Flag Football". youtube.com. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  13. ^ "World Flag Championship (m) | EVENTS | International American Football". ifaf.org. Retrieved 2020-12-31.
  14. ^ "NFL partners with The World Games to add flag football in 2022". NFL.com. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  15. ^ Taylor, Tom (June 29, 2017). "Star-studded flag football league leans on NFL influences in debut". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  16. ^ Rovell, Darren (May 18, 2017). "Michael Vick to play in trial game for American Flag Football League". ESPN. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  17. ^ "League - Football Canada". footballcanada.com. Football Canada.
  18. ^ "NAIA to sponsor women's flag football with NFL partnership". ESPN. 4 May 2020. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  19. ^ Kerkhoff, Blair (4 May 2020). "With NFL's backing, women's college flag football will debut at NAIA schools in 2021". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  20. ^ NBC Sports. "Seahawks QB Russell Wilson becomes co-owner and chairman of NFL FLAG". Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  21. ^ "National Flag Football League – 2021 schedule and alignments". Britishamericanfootball.org. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  22. ^ "Youth Flag Football League – 2021 schedule and alignments". Britishamericanfootball.org. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  23. ^ "BAFACL Flag South". BAFA Community Leagues. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  24. ^ "BAFACL Flag North". BAFA Community Leagues. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  25. ^ "BAFA Rules Committee - Flag football". British American Football Referees' Association. Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
  26. ^ "Children's Flag". Britishamericanfootball.org. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  27. ^ "South Coast Spitfires at the double at 2021 Youth Flag National Finals – British American Football".

External linksEdit

  • United States Flag & Touch Football League