For anyone who has yet to fully discover what Flag American Football is, the below is a quick summary of what the sport is. For extra info and some general questions, please see our FAQ below.
In a nutshell, what is it?
Flag American Football is a non-contact version of American Football. It takes away the helmet, pads and big hits but still leaves in the same strategy and speed seen in the full version of the sport. As a non-contact sport, it caters to all levels and abilities, from youth player through to adults, regardless of gender. It has been picking up steam in terms of popularity in the UK and has even managed to find its way into the UK schools sports curriculum!
Played in a 5-vs-5 format, over 2 20 minute halves, Flag Football uses a similar 4 down approach as the contact version of the sport, requiring an offense to move the ball over halfway in a maximum 4 downs and then attempting to score in another 4 downs. Teams can move downfield either by passing the ball, or by running with it, the same way that the contact version does. There is no kicking or punting game involved in the 5-vs-5 Flag version of American Football.
Although it could be compared to touch rugby by its design, tackling in Flag Football requires a bit more than simple contact to end the play. Players play with two tackle flags hanging from a belt, positioned on each hip. A tackle is made when an opposing player pulls one of these flags free of the belt. The play is deemed over at the spot of the tackle. As it’s the flags being tackled and not the player, this obviously reduces the risk of injury from contact that the full contact version of the sport has.
How many players on a team?
Although a 5-a-side games, the minimum required to start a game is 4 (though you would be at a disadvantage), most teams aim for no more than 10 in a side on game day in order to allow everyone time to play. After all 40 minutes goes faster than you would think!
10 players allows for teams to use players in dedicated roles for either offense or defense but does not result in players being stuck on the side-lines for too long, meaning everyone gets the opportunity to play! A team with fewer players on game day will simply get more time on the field per player, and will help increase their fitness.
Players can be subbed on and off in a rolling-sub format, at the end of each play. Substitutions cannot be made while a play is in progress.
What roles are there on each team?
On the offensive side of the ball, there are only two positions a team needs to have, a Quarterback and a Centre. With the remaining three players, the offense may line up with any combination of Wide Receivers or Running Backs that they choose. More on each position below:
The quarterback is the player responsible for making the offensive work. Most quarterbacks call the play in the huddle, telling the other players where to line up and what to run. Quarterbacks normally call the snap count to begin the play.
The Quarterback is the player who receives the ball first from the centre (more on that below) They are normally the player who passes the football, but the ability to pass is not exclusive to the Quarterback
Running backs normally line up in the backfield, either behind the Quarterback or beside them in a shotgun formation. A running back’s role is to carry the football when given to them by a Quarterback. Running backs who can catch add an extra dimension to the offensive game as they can serve as an extra receiver, but lining them up in the backfield keeps the defence guessing as to what play is being run.
Despite the name, a Wide Receiver doesn’t have to line up wide. A Receiver is a player who lines up on the line of scrimmage with the intention of running a set route, in an attempt to get open and catch the ball thrown to them by the Quarterback.
A team will use multiple Wide Receivers in a play, in order to give the quarterback as many options as possible. All four players on the team, other than the passer, are eligible to be passed to.
In addition to being another receiving option for the quarterback, the centre also has another responsibility. Firstly they snap the ball to the quarterback at the start of every play. The rest of the offense is not allowed to move before the ball does, so getting the timing right is critical to avoid any penalties.
After the snap, the Centre becomes another passing target for the Passer.
Unlike on offense, there is no minimum requirement for any positions on the defensive side of the ball. Teams can line up using any combination of positions below:
Linebackers are player who normally have responsibility to cover the area of play closest to the line of scrimmage, primarily focusing on either rushing the passer, or trying to stop the running game at the line of scrimmage. They may also drop back into pass coverage
One Linebacker may split out wider to cover a Wide Receiver if the offense looks to use 3 Wide Receivers.
Cornerbacks are players whose primary role is to cover Wide Receivers. While they can still pass rush, Cornerbacks are most effective by taking away a passing option for the offense by making it too risky for the offense to pass to the Wide Receiver they are covering. After all if the offense has no options, they can’t progress up the field.
Safeties are the last line of defence as they usually position themselves to be the deepest defender. This allows them to read the game and either go after a deep pass, cover a Wider Receiver who has gone past the Cornerback covering them, or go help make a tackle on a player who has possession of the ball.
Safeties may also rush the passer, but like Cornerbacks, they are better valued in helping shut down the passing game through good coverage skills.
Who can play?
Currently the league is open to all male players over the age of 16. This is our starting foundation for establishing the sport in Guernsey and our hope to branch out from there when the sport is fully settled.
While there currently isn’t a women’s, mixed or youth league, that doesn’t mean that such things aren’t in the Committee’s plans for the future. Should there be enough interest, we will pursue it, so please feel free to drop us an email if Flag Football interests you, but there is currently not the right league for you.
Is there a cost involved? Do I have to buy any specialist kit?
Players pay a £40.00 registration fee at the start of the season. This helps to cover the purchase of equipment, such as balls or flag belts and team jerseys as well as paying for the marking and use of our field (pitch). Funds left over at the end of the year help to subsidise our end of season dinner and awards evening.
While there is no need to purchase extra kit, you may find it useful to ensure that you have a pair of football boots as this will help with grip. Some players have also chosen to purchase gloves which help with griping the ball when catching, but this is not required. Some players prefer playing without gloves, so it is all down to personal preference.
When do you start playing and how long is a season?
Training normally starts in the early spring (usually April) and the season ends in the late summer (later August to early September)
The length of the season will always depend on how many teams there are, but with a six team league, each team will play a minimum of 10 games, with the top four progressing to the play-offs.
I’m interested in playing, how do I get started?
The easiest thing to do is to either drop us an email, or message us on Facebook, if you’re unsure and one of the Committee members will get back to you as soon as we can.
All our training sessions are open to come along to, so always feel free to pop down and have a go.
Do I have to sign up to a team to begin with? I don’t really know anyone else who plays.
Don’t worry if you don’t know anyone to begin with. You don’t have to sign up to a team straight away to begin playing. Our open training sessions pool everyone together, so teams don’t matter here.
When it comes to preparing for the regular season, you may have already been poached by one of the team captains if you fill a position of need. If you haven’t don’t worry, it doesn’t mean we don’t want you! Any player who has not been recruited by a specific team enters our draft pool. Teams make picks from this pool to fill out their rosters. By the time the season begins, we’ll make sure everyone has a team, so don’t worry!
Anyone who joins after the league officially starts, don’t think you have to sit out for a year. One of our teams will be more than happy to have you. Most teams practice by themselves once the season starts, so if you join a team part way through the season, they’ll help get you up to speed.
I’d like to be involved, but don’t want to play, can I still help or be involved?
The simple answer is yes! While obviously GAFA is always looking for players to help grow the sport, we would always welcome anyone who wants to be involved, whether it be as referees, stat-takers, coaches/trainee coaches, someone to photograph or film our games or even potential Committee members. Even just come down as a fan to watch. Any and all support, no matter what the level is hugely appreciated.
If you happen to have any questions that aren’t answered by reading the above, or anywhere else on the website, please feel free to contact us