Rules changes for 2017
18th February 2017
The BAFA Rules Committee has announced the rule changes that will be brought into play on 1st March (except for the remainder of the BUCS season). The BAFA changes largely reflect changes made by IFAF.
Some changes have been introduced to increase player safety. Tripping is now a foul if committed against the ball carrier - previously tripping was a legal way to make a tackle, but not any more. The rules on blocking below the waist have been simplified to make them safer. The low-blocking zone (the area within which players were allowed to make largely unrestricted blocks below the waist) has been abolished and now only players in the tackle box remain unrestricted. The net effect is to impose restrictions on tight ends and wing backs that already applied to wide receivers.
Some changes have been introduced to encourage fair play and to increase penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. The rule that a player was automatically disqualified if he committed a second unsportsmanlike conduct foul has now been extended to coaches. Previously a coach was not limited in how many fouls he could incur. The prospect of intimidation during the coin toss has been reduced by requiring teams to remain in their team area during the ceremony. All but a tiny number of teams already do this, so it is not a major change for most.
The rule changes include two important updates to the BAFA medical rules.
The first extends the range of personnel who can provide medical cover from doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and paramedics to include sports rehabilitators, sports therapists, sports massage therapists, osteopaths and chiropractors. However, each of these persons must be a member of their relevant professional registration body (see the rule for details) AND must hold a NQF Level 3 or higher first aid qualification. For some professions this is a mandatory part of their professional training. For others, the individual must have acquired a suitable qualification by other means. The professional practitioner must have carried out a risk assessment and determined that they are competent and equipped to carry out emergency life saving.
The second introduces a new BAFA Concussion Protocol. We all know that anyone who shows symptoms of concussion should be removed from the game and rest. The Protocol now formalises it, and mandates a minimum two-week rest period followed by a graduated return to play for anyone diagnosed with concussion or suspected of having had one.
IFAF has now adopted a Video Judge rule that goes beyond existing NCAA and NFL replay rules. It allows a Video Judge to assist the on-field officials with a much wider range of calls, all with the aim of getting the play right. Our rules do not require the large-scale TV coverage that US replay demands. IFAF's rule was trialed last summer at the European Championship qualifying tournament hosted by BAFA in Worcester and proved very successful.
- After a penalty committed by the team in the lead in the last two minutes of the half, the offended team has the option to start the clock on the snap.
- Team B must be given the opportunity to match Team A substitutions.
- A sliding ball carrier is added to the list of players who are considered "defenseless".
- Clarified that the crown of the helmet is the portion above the facemask.
- Clarified that for there to be targeting, the player must take aim at an opponent in a way that goes beyond normal play. This includes a launch, crouch, leading body part or lowered head.
- There is no such thing as a 30-second timeout anymore.
- Advertising is allowed on helmets.
Jim Briggs, Chairman of both the BAFA Rules Committee and the IFAF Rules of the Game Committee said, "We continue to make improvements to the rules to make the game safer and to encourage better sportsmanship. The changes to the medical rules should give clubs more flexibility in securing effective medical cover. The concussion protocol will reduce the likelihood of players suffering major brain injury."
There are a number of other minor rule changes. The full list is available here in PDF format. Note that the rulebook on the BAFA rules website has been updated with these changes.