Unique Arena Football Rules

Created as an alternative to American football in 1986, the arena football rules contain some unique differences. Invented by James F. Foster, arena football was designed to use in the same indoor venues that are used by professional basketball and hockey teams.

How Arena Football Rules Are Different
The tight confines of an indoor arena have led to some creative rules differences between arena football and its outdoor cousins. Some of these differences include:

  • It starts with the field. Arena football is played on a field that is the same size as an NHL hockey rink. At 85 feet wide and just under 200 feet long, the arena football field is almost half the size of an outdoor football field. The field of play is 50 yards long with 8-yard end zones at either end. Unlike traditional football, the goal posts are narrower, higher from the ground and suspended from the ceiling of the arena rather than secured to the ground.
  • The nets stay up. Unlike outdoor stadiums where the end zone nets are only raised during a kick, arena football rules state that the nets must be left in place for the entire game. These goal-side "rebound nets" are stretched tightly and any ball that bounces off them is considered "live" until it touches the ground. This means, that passes bouncing off the nets may caught as normal and kicks that miss the goal may be caught by the defending team and run back as in a kick return.
  • Fewer (and tougher) players. Arena football teams only field 8 players instead of the traditional 11 found on outdoor football teams. And even though the rules recently changed to allow free substitutions, it is still possible for a player to play both offensive and defensive positions. Playing both sides of the ball is known as the "ironman" style of play.
  • Keep the ball moving. Arena football was designed to create a fast-paced, high scoring game. As such, punting has been removed and receivers need only have one foot down to complete a pass. Timing has also been changed to speed up play. The clock stops for out-of-bounds plays, incomplete passes and sacks during the last minute of each half. Otherwise, offenses have a 35 second play clock that resets at the end of each play.
  • Scoring differences. Although touchdowns, field goals and point after attempts (PAT) are the same, arena football adds the "drop kick" field goal worth 4 points and the drop kick PAT worth 2 points. Turnovers that occur during field goals or PATs may be returned for 2 points.
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