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NIRSA Sport Rules :: Home

Flag Football

Overview & Examples

Flag football is a fast-paced game based on traditional American football in which participants wear flag belts that are pulled to end a play rather than tackling the player.

The sport features two teams of 4 to 8 players on a smaller playing field. Teams advance the football downfield by running or passing in attempt to score a touchdown. Punting is utilized, but kickoffs and field goals are not traditionally part of a flag football game. Among intramural sports, flag football is often one of the more popular offerings.

Traditional Formats

7-on-7 men’s and women’s leagues 8-on-8 co-rec leagues 4-on-4 men’s, women’s, co-rec, and mixed leagues


For 7-on-7 and 8-on-8 flag football, at least three officials per game – a referee, line judge, and back judge – are traditionally used. If possible, four officials per game – including an additional field judge – are preferred to better cover the field.

For 4-on-4 flag football, two officials per game is standard practice due to the smaller field dimensions and smaller team sizes.

The game time and score are typically kept on the field by a game official, however a scorekeeper / timer / down box operator may be utilized along the sideline for additional assistance.


The NIRSA Flag & Touch Football Rules Book & Officials’ Manual is published biannually and furnishes complete playing rules for league and tournament play.

While the NIRSA Flag Football Rules Book is utilized as the basis for rules on most college campuses, many institutions have modified select rules to better reflect their unique participant groups and program requirements.

Notes & Variations

Among the most common rule variations is the use of two 20-minute halves of playing time rather than quarters. The number of timeouts may also be limited to increase the timeliness of games for schedule efficiency.

Co-rec leagues employ a variety of rule variations, outlined extensively in the NIRSA Flag Football Rules Book, to encourage and/or limit participation by particular players.

Flag football skills challenge games are popular in open recreation and tournament formats.

Discuss intramural sport rules at the NIRSA Intramural Sports discussion group
(available to NIRSA Members)

NIRSA Intramural Sports discussion group