Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Arena Football

Arena Football is a sport invented in 1981 by Jim Foster, a former NFL executive. While sitting at an Indoor Soccer game in Madison Square Garden, he developed the basic rules of the sport. Over the next 5 years, he would continue to modify the rules, and play some test games, until he was ready to launch the Arena Football League in 1987. The league spawned off a minor league called the af2 in 2000. Other people have started their own indoor football leagues. These leagues do not technically play Arena Football however, because of the patent on the rules (specifically the rebound nets) that Foster obtained for the sport in 1990.

Table of contents
1 Rules of the Game

Rules of the Game

Arena football is similar to American football, so only the important differences between its rules and those of the National Football League will be articulated here. The rule differences are intended to make the game faster-paced and higher-scoring.

The Field

Arena football is played exclusively indoors, in arena's usually designed for basketball or hockey teams. The field is 50 yards long with 8 yard end zones. There is a heavily padded wall on each sideline. The field goal uprights are 9 feet wide. Taut rebound nets on either side of the posts bounce any missed field goals back into the field of play.

The Players

Each team fields eight players from a 20-man active roster. Players must play both offense and defense except for the quarterback, kicker, an offensive specialist (who returns kicks on defense) and two defense specialists. Non-specialists may only substitute once per quarter.


Four offensive players must be on the line of scrimmage at the snap. One offensive player may be moving forward at the time of the snap. Three defensive players must be in a three- or four-point stance at the start of the snap. Two defenders serve as linebackers and may blitz from either side of the line but cannot drop back into coverage until the ball is thrown or the quarterback pump-fakes.

Ball movement

The ball is kicked off from the goal line. The team with the ball is given four downs to gain ten yards or score. Punting is illegal. A receiver jumping to catch a pass needs to get only one foot down in bounds for the catch to stand. Passes that bounce of the rebound nets remain live. Field goal attempts that bounce off the rebound nets may be returned by the defending team.


The scoring is the same as in the NFL with the addition of a drop kick field goal which is worth four points during normal play or two points as a post-touchdown conversion.


The clock stops for out of bounds plays or incomplete passes only in the last minute of each half (one minute warning, as opposed to the two minute warning in the NFL) or due to penalties, injuries or timeouts. Overtime periods last 15 minutes. Each team gets one possession to score. If, after each team has had one possession, one team is ahead, that team wins. If the teams are tied after each has had a possession, the next team to score wins.