Flag Football Rules

NIRSA Flag Football rules shall apply to all games, except any of the following adaptations. 

Players and Substitutes

  1. 5 players minimum to start the game.

  2. 8 players maximum can play the field in a game

  3. 1 player is required to be on the line of scrimmage (LOS) at the snap

  4. The following equipment is illegal and may not be worn by any player

    • Jewelry

    • Shorts/Pants with, zippers, exposed drawstrings or belt loops

    • Hooded sweatshirts (hoods must be tucked in the neckline)

    • Metal cleats

  5. Teams may provide their own ball. IM Sports will have balls for check out.

    • Men’s league must use an official size ball

    • Co-rec league has the option to use youth, junior or official size balls

  6. Teams must wear the same color shirt for each game. Captains will select that color during team registration.

  7. Flag belts will be provided by GVSU IM Sports.


  1. The game shall consist of four, 10 minute quarters.
    1. The clock will run for the entire first half and the first 18 minutes of the second half.
    2. During the last two minutes of the second half, the clock will revert to “two minute timing rules.”
      • Two minute timing rules will stop the clock
        • First down 
        • Out of bounds
        • Incomplete pass
        • Penalty enforcement
        • Touchdown
        • Safety
        • Touchback
        • Change of possession
        • Team or official’s time out
      • The game officials will indicate when the clock will start based on the previous play.
  2. Teams are entitled to 2 timeouts per half
  3. Halftime is 3 minutes.
  4. Regular season games will end in ties. Playoff games will play overtime.
  5. If a game is called because of lightning, darkness, etc., halftime will constitute an official game.


  1. Touchdown
    1. 6 points
  2. PAT
    1. 1 points – ball snapped from the three yard line
    2. 2 points – ball snapped from the 10 yard line
    3. 3 points – ball snapped from the 20 yard line
  3. Safety
    1. 2 points
  4. Mercy Rule
    1. If a team is ahead by 19 points at the two minute warning of the second half, the game will be ended. 

The Game

  1. To start a half, after a touchback, touchdown or safety, the ball will be snapped from the 14 yard line (the X). The player receiving the snap for all downs must be two yards behind the LOS.
  2. The orange cone is the offensive LOS and the yellow cone is the defensive LOS. The 1 yard area between the cones is the neutral zone.
    1. The ball must be snapped from the ground, on either side of the offensive cone. 
    2. The defense can cross into the neutral zone once the ball is snapped. 
  3. When a new series is started, the next large line (20, 40 or goal) will be the zone line to gain (ZLTG). The officials will announce the line to gain and the down on each play.
  4. Teams have 4 downs to advance the ball to the next ZLTG.
  5. A team can punt on any down
    1. During a punt, no player from either team may cross their scrimmage line before the ball is kicked. On player my be in motion
    2. The ball must be snapped from the ground, next to the offensive cone. 
    3. If a punt touches the ground before it is touched by any player, the ball is live and can be advanced by the receiving team.
  6. Flag football is non-contact. Players may not hold, push, and “chuck players on the LOS.” Non-contact screen blocking is allowed during each down. Flag guarding is illegal.
  7. Only one forward pass is allowed per down. It must be from behind the line of scrimmage. Teams may throw unlimited backward passes.
  8. Only one person may be in motion at the time of the snap. Motion players may not be moving towards the line of scrimmage at the snap.
  9. If a ball touches the ground, the play is dead. 
  10. When the ball is snapped, the defense may rush the quarterback in an attempt to pull their flag or disrupt the throw.

Fouls and Penalties

  1. Five yard penalties
    1. False start
    2. Encroachment
    3. Delay of game
    4. Illegal motion
    5. Illegal shift
    6. Illegal snap
    7. Illegal forward pass (also a loss of down)
    8. Illegal advancement (co-rec)
  2. Ten yard penalties
    1. Illegal contact
    2. Flag Guarding – must cause contact with the opponent
    3. Pass interference – must be contact with the opponent
    4. Illegal participation
    5. Illegal equipment
    6. Striping or attempting to strip the ball
    7. Roughing the passer
    8. Unsportsmanlike conduct
  3. All fouls during a running play will be enforced from the end of the run. All fouls during a loose ball play will be enforced from the previous spot. All dead ball fouls will be enforced from the succeeding spot.

Co-Rec Specific Rules

  1. A male may run the ball through the LOS if the run is preceded by a legal forward pass.
    1. A male may not run the ball through the LOS if there has not been a legal forward pass.
  2. The following are legal co-rec lineups, by gender:
    1. 4 men and 4 women
    2. 4 men and 3 women
    3. 4 women and 3 men
    4. 3 men and 3 women
    5. 4 women and 2 men
    6. 4 men and 2 women
    7. 3 men and 2 women
    8. 3 women and 2 men

Page last modified August 1, 2023