Jim Briggs, Chair BAFA & BAFRA Rules Committees
2nd February 2014
Since 2012, BAFA has been following IFAF rules, which are in turn based on NCAA rules. This year, BAFA has adopted all of the relevant changes from IFAF, plus a few additional ones. They take effect from 1st March 2014 (except for the remainder of the BUCS league season) and are incorporated into the 2014 printed rulebook and the online version.
2 Most significant rule changes
These rules are listed in approximate order of significance.
Blocking below the waist. New text:
a. Team A prior to a change of team possession:
Consider a low-blocking zone seven yards on each side of the ball extending five yards beyond the neutral zone and back to Team A’s end line (Rule 2-3-7 and Appendix D).
1. The following Team A players may legally block below the waist inside this zone until the ball has left the zone: (a) players on the line of scrimmage completely within this zone and (b) stationary backs who are at least partially inside the tackle box and at least partially inside the frame of the body of the second lineman from the snapper.
2. Players not covered in paragraph 1 (above) while the ball is still in the zone, and all players after the ball has left the zone, are allowed to block below the waist only if the force of the initial contact is from the front, but they may not block below the waist if the force of the initial contact is from the side or back. “From the front” is understood to mean within the clock-face region between “10 o’clock and 2 o’clock” forward of the player being blocked.
3. Once the ball has left the zone a player may not block below the waist toward his own end line.
b. Team B prior to a change of team possession
1. Other than in paragraphs 2 and 3 below, Team B players may block below the waist only within the area defined by lines parallel to the goal line five yards beyond and behind the neutral zone extended to the sidelines. Blocking below the waist by players of Team B outside this area is illegal.
2. Team B players may not block below the waist against an opponent who is in position to receive a backward pass.
3. Team B players may not block below the waist against an eligible Team A pass receiver beyond the neutral zone unless attempting to get to the ball or ball carrier. This prohibition ends when a legal forward pass is no longer possible by rule.
During a down in which there is a free kick or a scrimmage kick, blocking below the waist by any player is illegal except against the ball carrier.
d. After change of team possession
After any change of team possession, blocking below the waist by any player is illegal except against the ball carrier.
The NCAA Rules Committee has been tweaking the rule about blocking below the waist for several years. We believe this year’s version is a big improvement because it simplifies the rule and makes it easier to officiate.
The concept of “10 to 2” makes it easier to understand what it means to make a block to a player from his front. The low-blocking zone is similar to the tackle box (though it extends 5 yards beyond the neutral zone, too).
The prohibition against a “peel back” block (towards your own end line) is completely new.
9-1-3 and 9-1-4
Change penalty statement to: “In addition to the 15-yard penalty, automatic disqualification.”
This is the change everyone is talking about, but we don’t think we will see an epidemic of it in British American football.
If a player is guilty of targeting a defenceless player (the foul hasn’t changed except that the list of defenceless players has been extended), then the penalty will involve mandatory disqualification, as well as 15 yards.
“Targeting” means that a player takes aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with an apparent intent that goes beyond making a legal tackle or a legal block or playing the ball. Some indicators of targeting include but are not limited to:
a. Launch – a player leaving his feet to attack an opponent by an upward and forward thrust of the body to make contact in the head or neck area.
b. A crouch followed by an upward and forward thrust to attack with contact at the head or neck area, even though one or both feet are still on the ground.
c. Leading with helmet, forearm, fist, hand or elbow to attack with contact at the head or neck area.
d. Lowering the head before attacking by initiating contact with the crown of the helmet.
This provides a definition of what is meant by “targeting” a defenceless opponent.
Changes to definition of defenceless player.
“a. A player in the act of or just after throwing a pass.
b. A receiver attempting to catch a pass, or one who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a ball carrier.
c. A kicker in the act of or just after kicking a ball, or during the kick or the return.
d. A kick returner attempting to catch or recover a kick.
e. A player on the ground at the end of a play.
f. A player obviously out of the play.
g. A player who receives a blind-side block.
h. A ball carrier already in the grasp of an opponent and whose forward progress has been stopped.
i. A quarterback any time after a change of possession.”
The bits in bold are new. This change adds a number of additional situations to the list of people who are protected by the targeting rule.
In the last sentence of Article 1, delete “30” and replace with “the line 15 yards from the midfield line.”
Move the normal kickoff spot forward 5 yards.
NCAA have made a number of changes on kickoffs, and we have adapted them to our needs.
We will now kickoff from the 35-yard line, but only if we have a 100-yard field. On a 90-yard field, the kickoff spot will remain the 30-yard line.
Add: “After the ball has been made ready for play all players on the kicking team except the kicker must be no more than five yards behind their restraining line. A player satisfies this rule when one foot is on or beyond the line five yards behind the restraining line. If one player is more than five yards behind the restraining line and any other player kicks the ball, it is a foul.”
This is a safety related change. By restricting the run-up that kicking team players (other than the kicker) can have, it is hoped that they will have slightly less momentum as they rush downfield. This will reduce the potential for injuries on kickoff plays.
Add: “During a free kick a player of the receiving team in position to receive the ball has the same kick-catch and fair-catch protection whether the ball is kicked directly off the tee or is immediately driven to the ground, strikes the ground once and goes into the air in the manner of the ball kicked directly off the tee.”
On an onside kick, the kicking team typically kicks the ball straight into the ground. This was a tactic to avoid the call of kick catch interference that almost inevitably resulted if they chipped the ball in the air towards the receiving team. This change now means that the receiving team will have the same protection from being interfered with while fielding the kick whether the ball is chipped up or driven into the ground.
Opportunity to catch a kick. Add: “It is an interference foul if, before the receiver touches the ball, a Team A player enters the area defined by the width of the receiver’s shoulders and extending one yard in front of him. When in question it is a foul.”
This change introduces a 1-yard semi-circle in front of any returner trying to catch a kick. If a kicking team player enters that area (or as before, interferes in any other way), it is a foul (15 yards).
New unsportsmanlike conduct foul. Add: “Dead-ball contact fouls such as pushing, shoving, striking, etc. that occur clearly after the ball is dead and that are not part of the game action.”
This is a significant change in that it makes the sort of pushing and shoving that sometimes takes place after the play is over into one of those fouls that if you commit two of, you are automatically disqualified.
A player whose helmet comes completely off during a down may not continue to participate in the play beyond the immediate action in which he is engaged.
Another safety related change.
If your helmet comes off, stop playing!
10-second runoff. Add: ” If the player injury is the only reason for stopping the clock (other than his or a teammate’s helmet coming off, Rule 3-3-9) with less than one minute in the half, the opponent has the option of a 10-second runoff. The play clock will be set to 40 seconds for an injury to a player of the defensive team and to 25 seconds for injury to a player of the offensive team (Rule 3-2-4-c-4). If there is a 10-second runoff the game clock will start on the referee’s signal. If there is no 10-second runoff the game clock will start on the snap. The 10-second runoff may be avoided by a charged team timeout if available. There is no option of a 10-second runoff if there are injuries to opposing players.”
In order to prevent teams unfairly conserving time by faking an injury in the last minute of either half, their opponents can now choose to have a 10-second runoff. This has been the rule on penalties for a few years. It also now applies to players who lose their helmets.
In each circumstance, the offending team can prevent the 10-second runoff if they have timeouts remaining.
There is no runoff if both teams caused the stoppage.
(also 3-2-4-c and 3-3-2-e)
Helmet off. Add: “The player may remain in the game if his team is granted a charged timeout.
b. When the helmet coming off is the only reason for stopping the clock, other than due to an injury to the player or his teammate (Rule 3-3-5), the following….”
If during the down a player’s helmet comes completely off, other than as the direct result of a foul by an opponent, the player must leave the game for the next down. The game clock will stop at the end of the down.
An offensive team player’s helmet comes completely off during the down. The play clock is set to 40 seconds if the helmet comes completely off a player of the defensive team. (Exception: With less than one minute remaining in either half the play clock is set at 25 seconds for any player.)
This is a safety related change that requires a player to leave the field if his helmet comes off during play. If it happens in the last minute of a half, there may be a 10-second runoff as well. The player can remain in the game if his team uses a timeout. (This is handled similarly to an injured player, except an injured player can’t buy his way back in to the game with a timeout.) The rule doesn’t apply if the helmet came off as a direct result of a foul (e.g. a facemask or targeting foul).
The game clock also stops at the end of the down if a helmet came off.
Change to postscrimmage kick enforcement.
Delete “play” from par. b: “b. …during a scrimmage kick play and …”
Delete subpar. 3; re-number remaining.
3. The foul occurs three or more yards beyond the neutral zone.
This is quite a significant change to penalty enforcement. Previously, any foul committed by the receiving team near or behind the neutral zone gave the ball back to the kicking team. This change limits this enforcement to only certain fouls (including running/roughing the kicker and leaping the shield). Others will be enforced from the end of the kick, as was the case in the past for fouls that occurred downfield.
Add: “No defensive player who is inside the tackle box may try to block a punt by leaving his feet in an attempt to leap directly over an opponent.
1. It is not a foul if the player tries to block the punt by jumping straight up without attempting to leap over the opponent.
2. It is not a foul if a player attempts to leap through or over the gap between players.”
This is a safety related change resulting from the increasing number of teams who use a 3-man shield to protect the punter. It is a now a foul to attempt to leap over one of those players.
Change to helping the runner. Change to: “The ball carrier shall not grasp a teammate; and no other player of his team shall grasp, pull or lift him to assist him in forward progress.”
Pushing a teammate is no longer “assisting the runner”.
Images may be used for coaching purposes.
Previously it was illegal to have any sort of camera or computer in the team area. This changes makes it legal.
Uniform numbers. Change to “When a player enters the game after changing his jersey number, he must report to the referee, who then informs the opposing head coach and announces the change. A player who enters the game after changing his number and does not report commits a foul for unsportsmanlike conduct.” Penalty is UNS.
This has been part of the BAFA Disciplinary Code for a while, but this change gives it an on field penalty (15 yards).
Jersey numerals. Change to “The jersey must have clearly visible, permanent Arabic numerals measuring at least 8 and 10 inches in height front and back, respectively, of a colour which itself is clearly in distinct contrast with the colour of the jersey, irrespective of any border around the number.”
Emphasises that the numbers on a jersey must be distinct from the jersey colour.
Add “Eyeglasses and goggles also must be clear and not tinted.”
For some years, players have been prohibited from wearing tinted visors, on the grounds that medical personnel would not be able to see their eyes. This prohibition has now been extended to other forms of eyewear, even if removable.
Incorporate instant replay rules 12-3-3-b and 12-3-3-d into the inadvertent whistle rule. Aim is to allow indisputable recovery (but no advance) by opponent in the immediate continuing action after a fumble followed by an inadvertent whistle.
It has been an anomaly in the rules that instant replay could “fix” an inadvertent whistle that blows while the ball is loose but that it couldn’t be fixed by the officials on the field. This obviously matters where you don’t have instant replay (like us!).
If the whistle blows just before the opponent recovers a fumble (or other loose ball), then the ball can be awarded to them, but any advance would be negated.
c. A telephone capable of use to summon the emergency services must be available.
Game management is responsible for the provision and suitability of medical facilities that meet the requirements of Rule 13-1-1.
It is no longer permissible to have someone who is “just” a first aider as the medical cover. Consequently, it is up to game management to decide whether they want an ambulance and whether to have a stretcher.
There are alternatives to limb splints for stabilising fractures so we have removed the need for those.
Competitions may give away team first choice of jersey colour.
This will allow us to be compliant with BUCS regulations.
Towel size. Change to “Solid white towels no smaller than 4” X 12” and no larger than 6” X 12” with no words, …”
Previously it was assumed that all towels were the same size. There are now maximum and minimum limits.
Game management may use IFAF yards if the stadium is too small to mark out a full-sized field.
An IFAF yard is normally 36 inches (91.44cm) long, but may be shortened to no less than 34.12 inches (86.67cm) only if necessary to fit a 100-yard field of play plus two 10-yard end zones within the available playing surface.
This provides an alternative to the usual 90-yard field. For some teams it may be preferable to mark a 100-yard field but shorten the yards a little (by up to approximately 5%).
Visibility of yard lines. Add: “The entirety of all yard lines, goal lines and sidelines must be clearly visible. No portion of any such line may be obscured by decorative markings.
2. No such markings may touch or enclose the hash marks.”
This is to ensure that all lines on the field are not obscured by logos, etc.
Chop block. Add: “It is not a foul if the defensive player initiates the contact.”
This is common sense, but the rule didn’t previously say it.
Pylons. Add: “One manufacturer’s logo or trademark is permitted on each pylon. Institutional logos, conference logos and the name/commercial logo of the sponsor of postseason games are also allowed. Any such marking may not extend more than 3 inches on any side.”
To allow more advertising opportunities.
Allow wireless communication for officiating crew
I look forward to testing this out, but I’m not holding my breath!
End of half clock adjustment. Change to: ” Clock adjustment at the end of either half any quarter. (Exception: Rule 3-2-5-b)
If at the end of a half any quarter…”
“2. In the second and fourth quarters only, the team in possession….”
The wonders of instant replay.
3 Minor changes
Define “a. The low-blocking zone is the rectangle that extends seven yards laterally in each direction from the snapper, five yards beyond the neutral zone and back to Team A’s end line. (See Appendix D.)
b. The low-blocking zone disintegrates when the ball leaves the zone.”
New language to clarify “catch”. New text: “a. To catch a ball means that a player:
1. secures control of a live ball in flight with his hands or arms before the ball touches the ground, and
2. touches the ground in bounds with any part of his body, and then
3. maintains control of the ball long enough to enable him to perform an act common to the game, i.e., long enough to pitch or hand the ball, advance it, avoid or ward off an opponent, etc., and
4. satisfies paragraphs b, c, and d below.
b. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent) he must maintain complete and continuous control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or in the end zone. This is also required for a player attempting to make a catch at the sideline and going to the ground out of bounds. If he loses control of the ball which then touches the ground before he regains control, it is not a catch. If he regains control inbounds prior to the ball touching the ground it is a catch.
c. If the player loses control of the ball while simultaneously touching the ground with any part of his body, or if there is doubt that the acts were simultaneous, it is not a catch. If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball will not be considered loss of possession; he must lose control of the ball in order for there to be a loss of possession.
d. If the ball touches the ground after the player secures control and continues to maintain control, and the elements above are satisfied, it is a catch.”
Delete definition of North South Line
Clarify passer starting arm forward. Add between “arm” and “starts”: “…with the ball firmly in his control…”
Definition of back. Add: “…whose head or shoulder does not break…”
Add an additional situation when the clock starts on the referee’s signal: “When either team commits a dead-ball foul.”
Change to: “Penalty options must be exercised before a team timeout.”
Add: ” The line to gain is established when the ball is made ready for play before the first down of the new series.”
Insert down following the word “scrimmage” in the first line.
It is a first down new series with a new line to gain:
Fouls by kicking team. Insert: ” “…scrimmage kick play in which the ball crosses the neutral zone (except field-goal attempts)…”
Insertion: “…enforced either at the previous spot …”
Addition at end of sentence: “…dead ball belongs to Team B, at the option of Team B.”
Defensive team requirements. Change to “…may not make quick, abrupt or exaggerated actions…”
Illegal forward pass. Change: “ball carrier’s entire body and the ball have gone been beyond the neutral zone.”
Foul during try after change of team possession.
ARTICLE 4. a. Distance Penalties against …
c. “…change of possession, the fouls offset cancel, the down is not …”
Penalty for leaping. “PENALTY—15 yards, previous spot and automatic first down. [S38]”
Makes it never PSK enforcement.
Roughing kicker penalty. Add: “and automatic first down”
Change title to “Targeting and Initiating Contact to Head or Neck Area of a Defenseless Player.”
Change: “… with the helmet, forearm, hand, elbow, or shoulder. When …”
Add to the list of unsportsmanlike acts: “Intentionally removing the helmet while the ball is alive.”
Fouls by Team A during a kick. Change to: “….during a free kick play or a scrimmage kick play in which the ball crosses the neutral zone (except….”
There are also over 50 further editorial changes that improve the clarity of several sections of the rulebook. The full list is in the rulebook.