Arena Football Rules

Want to learn more about the Official Arena Football League Rules? 


The Arena Football League (AFL) game is a unique brand of football that engages elements of American football. Legendary founder, Jim Foster, created the concept when he was the promotions manager for the National Football League (NFL) and conceived indoor football while watching an indoor soccer match at Madison Square Garden in 1981. While at the game, Foster wrote his idea on a 9x12 envelope, with sketches of the field and notes on gameplay. He presented the idea to a few of his friends and the NFL offices and received praise and encouragement for his concept. The AFL was born and had their inaugural season in 1987. The AFL was the first brand of football played indoors that sparked interest in fans and football enthusiasts and became the driving inspiration of other competitive leagues. The AFL introduced their game with their own proprietary "rebound nets" that made a unique brand of football that created high-octane action for their fans. In addition, the AFL began with "Iron Man" football in which players played offense and defense the entire game. The 2024 season maintains the original DNA of the previous AFL but introduces a new style of "Iron Man" while maintaining player safety and providing the fans with the fast action that they love about arena football. Indeed, AFL 2024 is "bigger and better"!


The game is played indoors, preferably in high-quality arenas with seating capacity of 5,000 to 20,000. The game is a contest between two teams of eight players. The team scoring the most points at the conclusion of the game is the winner.

AFL Arena

The regulation field is fifty yards long by twenty-eight yards wide, surrounded by the "Arena Wall," which is at least 48" high. The field is capped at the end zones with goal posts that are called "Rebound Nets." The Rebound Nets serve to create action-packed plays that are unique to the Arena Football League. The field may be longer, shorter, or wider due to the nature of the facility, only with Commissioner Lee Hutton's approval.

Understanding the Exciting Rules of Arena Football    Welcome to the electrifying world of Arena Football, where the action is fast-paced, the scoring is high, and the rules are uniquely tailored to provide an exhilarating experience for fans and players alike. While Arena Football shares some similarities with the traditional outdoor game, it introduces several distinct rules that set it apart from the NFL. Let's dive into the key differences and explore what makes Arena Football a thrilling spectacle.

The Field and Playing Surface:

  • The AFL is played indoors on a padded synthetic turf, approximately the same length and width as a professional ice hockey rink, with a field that is 50 yards long and 28 yards wide.
  • The end zones are 8 yards deep, and the field is surrounded by a high-density foam barrier, known as the "Arena Wall," which is 48 to 52 inches high.

Player and Team Composition:

  • Each team has eight players on the field during play, compared to the NFL's 11.
  • The AFL employs a "Ironman" rule, where some players play both offense and defense, although there are designated offensive and defensive specialists.

Game Timing and Scoring:

  • Games consist of four 15-minute quarters with a 15-minute halftime.
  • The clock stops for incomplete passes and out-of-bounds plays only in the final minute of each half.
  • Field goals are worth 3 points, and drop kick field goals are worth 4 points.
  • After a touchdown, teams can attempt a 2-point conversion from the 2 1/2-yard line.

Kickoffs and Special Teams:

  • Kickoffs are from the goal line, and the receiving team's free kick line is the kicking team's 10-yard line.
  • There is no punting in the AFL. Teams must attempt a field goal or go for it on fourth down.
  • The "rebound nets" on either side of the goalposts create unique opportunities for live balls and scoring plays.

Unique Rules and Gameplay:

  • The high-motion man (HMM) rule allows one offensive player to move toward the line of scrimmage before the snap.
  • Defensive players must remain within designated "boxes" until the ball is snapped, limiting blitzing and coverage schemes.
  • The sidewalls of the field are considered in play, adding a dynamic element to passing and catching.

Understanding Penalties and Fouls:

  • The AFL has specific rules regarding illegal defense, such as illegal twists and stunts by the defensive line, and restrictions on linebacker movement.
  • Offensive penalties include illegal motion and formation violations, emphasizing the unique strategy of the indoor game.

In summary, the Arena Football League offers a fast-paced, high-scoring alternative to traditional outdoor football, with unique rules that emphasize speed, strategy, and entertainment. Whether you're a seasoned fan or new to the game, the AFL provides a thrilling experience that keeps you on the edge of your seat.