Flag Football is a fun and safe alternative to regular tackle football. It can be played by kids or middle-aged adults, in coed or single-gender form. Lineups can range from 4-man per side all the way up to 9-man flag football. With all these variations, flag football rules can vary wildly, but a fairly universal set exists when it comes to the basics.

Equipment

A flag belt with two equal-length flags on both sides and a football are the only equipment that is truly necessary to play flag football. Shoes are mandatory, but metal cleats are usually not allowed. Organized leagues will have more strict rules for the equipment, like mandating a regulation-sized football that meets certain specifications and flag belts that conform to the rules of whatever governing body is hosting the game.

The Field

The field size differs by league, but the most common rule is that it should be a minimum of 30 yards in width and 70 yards in length with two 10-yard end zones. Recreational flag football can be played on just about any field side that is desired.

Gameplay

League games share many common gameplay rules. The first element is that a coin toss determines what team receives the ball first. The receiving team starts play at their own 5-yard line. Each team has three plays to cross midfield. If it does, it will be rewarded with another set of three plays to score a touchdown. If a team fails to cross midfield, or fails to score a touchdown on its second set of three plays, then the opposing team takes possession and starts on its own 5-yard line.

End of Play Rules

A play ends whenever a defender pulls one of the two flags from the ball carrier's flag belt. A defender is not allowed to hold or obstruct the runner in any way that makes grabbing a flag easier. Players cannot jump or leave their feet in order to make a grab at a flag. A play is officially over whenever a defender holds up a captured flag or when a pulled flag has hit the ground

Game Length

Most games run no longer than 40 minutes in length. Some leagues have two 12-minute halves while others have two 16-minute halves.

To read more about the history, rules and formats of flag football, as well as some of the best flag football plays, visit this website.