about section image

Arena Football 101: Rules and Gameplay

Updated at Feb 1, 2024

An introduction to the Arena Football League and some of the most commonly asked questions about the game

Welcome to the Arena Football League! If you are new to the indoor football game, you may notice some things that are unfamiliar. Despite the differences, though, it is still football at its core. The goal is still first downs and touchdowns and winning the game.

The following is for those of you who want to get familiar with some of the basics of the arena football game. Consider this a crash course in what you will need to know before the season kicks off.

Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the Arena Football League.

What’s with the field?

You can probably gather from the name that arena football is played in, well, arenas. Most of them are designed to host hockey and basketball. These facilities obviously can not support a full 100-yard outdoor-style field. As such, the arena game features a 50-yard field. The mid-field mark is the 25-yard line, and each end zone is roughly 8 yards deep. The field is also surrounded by padding, which serves as the boundaries. A player is considered out of bounds by either being pushed into or over the padded walls.

Another unique aspect that you may notice is the field color. Arena football is played on artificial turf, which is meant to be torn down at the end of the game. This allows for teams to take liberty in the overall design of their field. Many teams choose to use color schemes that match their overall theme. Don’t be surprised when you see a red, blue, or even gray field at some point in the season.

Goal posts exist in the arena game as well. These are much smaller than their outdoor cousins, measuring 9 feet wide and 15 feet above the playing surface. Much like the outdoor game, kickers kick extra points and field goals. Giant nets surround the goalposts. Any ball that bounces off of the net is a live ball and can be returned.

Also noteworthy is that there is no punting in arena football. If a team is faced with a 4th down situation, they can choose to attempt a field goal even backed up on their own end of the field.

How many players are on the field during the game?

Due to the condensed field, only 16 players are on the field at any given time. Both the offense and defense feature eight players at the snap. Each team has three linemen, who must line up directly in front of each other. Offenses add a quarterback, a running back, and three pass catchers on top of that. Defenses get a Mac and a Jack linebacker as well as three cover men to counter.

New fans will immediately notice the pre-snap motion on offense in the arena game. Unlike the outdoor game, receivers are allowed to move towards the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped and hit it at full speed once the play begins. Because of this, you will see some intricate motions and a lot of action while the quarterback is in his cadence.

Defensively, you will also notice the lack of stunts, twists, and elaborate blitz packages in the arena game. Since this is not an advanced course, for now, it's better to understand that stunting and twisting are not allowed. Also, only one linebacker can blitz, but he can only do so on either end of the center.

Why does the clock keep running?

In arena football, the clock runs constantly during the game, even after incomplete passes and plays that end out of bounds. The only exceptions are after the one-minute warning before the end of each half. Inside that mark, the clock stops as it normally would in the outdoor game. Referees can also stop the clock for injuries or penalties. Each team has three timeouts per half.

What makes the Arena Football League so exciting?

Right from the start, the speed of the game grabs you. Despite the scaled-down nature of Arena Football, the condensed dimensions only served to accelerate the game. Everything happens faster, especially the scoring. It is not uncommon to see teams reach 60 or even 70 points in a game.

Another highlight of the Arena Football League is the passing attack. While teams have running backs on the field, they are very rarely used to move the ball forward. Some indoor leagues try to make the running game a bigger part of the offense. This is not so much the case for Arena Football and the AFL, as it has adopted a more passer-friendly persona. There is something electric about watching a quarterback throw a pass from his own one-yard line into the arms of a receiver in the end zone.

Also, fans are right on top of the action. Arena seating is much more intimate than stadium seating. Spectators can choose to sit right along the boundary walls, which puts them within arm's reach of the play on the field. On top of all of that, should a ball find its way into the stands, it becomes a souvenir. You do however have to give the player back if he ends up in the stands.

Share this

more updates

news
Journey to the Arena Dream: Jonathan Bane, Quarterback, West Texas

Read up on how Jonathan Bane has overcome adversity and injury to arrive in West Texas chasing his Arena Dream. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipisicing elit. Accusantium, dolores ut. Tempore similique molestiae excepturi facilis commodi assumenda sunt architecto tenetur accusantium, dignissimos, illum, perspiciatis et amet provident ipsa accusamus.

Keep Reading Arrow svg
news
AFL 2024 SEASON TRANSACTIONS - EAST DIVISION

AFL 2024 SEASON TRANSACTIONS - EAST DIVISION Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipisicing elit. Accusantium, dolores ut. Tempore similique molestiae excepturi facilis commodi assumenda sunt architecto tenetur accusantium, dignissimos, illum, perspiciatis et amet provident ipsa accusamus.

Keep Reading Arrow svg
news
AFL 2024 SEASON TRANSACTIONS - SOUTH DIVISION

AFL 2024 SEASON TRANSACTIONS - SOUTH DIVISION Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipisicing elit. Accusantium, dolores ut. Tempore similique molestiae excepturi facilis commodi assumenda sunt architecto tenetur accusantium, dignissimos, illum, perspiciatis et amet provident ipsa accusamus.

Keep Reading Arrow svg

West

teams imagesteams imagesteams imagesteams images

Central

teams imagesteams imagesteams imagesteams images

South

teams imagesteams imagesteams imagesteams images

East

teams imagesteams imagesteams imagesteams images

download app

© 2023 AFL - Arena Football League. AFL and the AFL shield design are registered trademarks of the Arena Football League. The team names, logos and uniform designs are registered trademarks of the teams indicated. All other AFL-related trademarks are trademarks of the Arena Football League.