BAFA mono

BAFA Rules Committee

BAFA Rules Changes 2012

Jim Briggs, Chair BAFA & BAFRA Rules Committees

January 2012


The rules change process has become slightly more complex this year since, for the first time, there now exists an IFAF rulebook. Formally, BAFA's rules are now based on IFAF's rules, which are in turn based on NCAA's rules. In practice, everything is nearly the same as before – IFAF's only differences from NCAA rules were basically differences that BAFA already had.

The "big thing" this year is that in 2011 NCAA made more changes to their rules than they have done for several years. The BAFA Rules Committee has considered these changes (plus some other local ones) and has adopted them for 2012. They take effect from 1st March 2012 (except for the remainder of the BUAFL season) and are incorporated into the 2012 printed rulebook and the online version at

Most significant rule changes

These rules are listed in order of significance.

Rule Number

Rule Difference



Unsportsmanlike conduct now penalised based on when it occurs.

·         If the foul occurs when the ball is live, then it will be penalised just like any other live ball foul.

·         If the foul occurs after the ball is dead, then it will be enforced like any other dead ball foul.

·         If the foul is by a non-player, then it will be enforced as if it occurred when the ball was dead.

If the foul is by the defense, it now carries an automatic first down.

The two most significant aspects of this are:

·         if the foul is committed by a player of the scoring team before a touchdown is scored, the score will be disallowed (previously the score counted and the foul always carried over to the try or kickoff)

·         if the defense commit the foul, it will always result in a 1st & 10


Blocking below the waist – illegal with the following exceptions:

Unrestricted offensive players may block below the waist in any direction during the entire down:

·         linemen less than 7 yards from the middle lineman

·         backs completely inside tackle box

Restricted offensive players may only block on a north-south line or towards their adjacent sideline:

·         linemen more than 7 yards from the middle lineman

·         backs in motion

·         backs not completely inside the tackle box

Defensive players may bock below waist until the ball has gone 5 yards downfield, except (as before) they cannot block below the waist:

·         a player in position to receive a backward pass

·         an eligible receiver beyond the neutral zone (unless attempting to get to the ball or ball carrier)

At first sight this appears to be a radical change, but the net effect is less.

The most significant change is that restricted players can now only legally block below the waist towards their adjacent sideline (the side of the formation where they are at the snap) rather than away from the position of the ball at the snap. This is the same thing unless the player crosses from one side of the formation to the other during the play, so a wide receiver or wing back cannot cross the field and block towards the opposite sideline.

The rule also adds to defensive restrictions, but only once the ball is clearly downfield.

As before, blocking below waist is never legal after a change of possession. It is also prohibited if there is a kick during the down. Previously it depended on whether the kick was predictable or not, so this is a simplification.


10-second subtraction.

With the game clock running and less than one minute remaining in either half, if a player of either team commits a foul that causes the clock to stop, the officials may subtract 10 seconds from the game clock at the option of the offended team.

If the subtraction is accepted, the clock will then start on the ready for play. If the subtraction is declined, the clock will start on the snap.

The aim here is to ensure that a team cannot manage the clock unfairly by committing fouls.

Note that:

·         The rule applies only if the game clock is running inside one minute of either half.

·         The rule applies equally to both teams.

·         The rule only applies to fouls that cause the clock to stop.

·         The 10-second subtraction is not automatic: the offended team has the option to decline it.

·         Intent is not normally an issue in applying this rule.

·         The fouling team may avoid the 10-second subtraction if it has a timeout to use.


Too many players on the field is now a 5 yard penalty regardless of when it is detected by the officials.

This removes the previous 15-yard penalty for illegal participation. Sometimes whether the penalty was 5 yards or 15 yards depended on when the officials spotted it.

Now the officials should make every effort to shut the play down for this foul even if that means shutting down a play in which the snap has just occurred.


If the offense never gets set for a full second prior to the snap, it is now a false start.

Previously there was a hole in the rules that did not cover this rare situation.

However, as before, if after the team is set for one second there are two players in motion at or before the snap, this is still a live ball foul for illegal shift.


No foul for running into/roughing the kicker if caused by opponent’s block

If a player is blocked into a kicker (i.e. a block by a kicking team player causes a defensive player to contact the kicker), whether the block is legal or illegal, this exempts the defensive player from roughing or running into a kicker. Previously this exemption applied only if the block was itself a foul.

Note: If the block is illegal then there will be a flag on the kicking team player.



Disqualified player must leave playing enclosure.

Previously we have allowed disqualified players to remain in the team area. Now a disqualified player must leave the field and remain out of sight under his team's supervision.


Clock does not stop if ball carrier’s helmet comes off

Previously, when a runner’s helmet came completely off, the ball became dead and it stopped the clock. The latter is no longer the case.


Additional reason for delay of game:

·         Action clearly designed to delay the officials from making the ball ready for play

Makes it clear that it is a foul (with a 5-yard penalty) for either team to delay the officials. Only likely to be used in hurry-up offense situations, though remember they can occur anytime in a half, not just near the end.


Intentional grounding – it is legal now if there is an eligible player in the area. The player no longer has to have an opportunity to catch the pass.

Previously the receiver had to have a reasonable opportunity to catch the pass, otherwise it was a foul.

In Europe, we interpreted the rule this way last year, so it should not make much difference in 2012.

Also, the only player who is eligible to go outside the tackle box and dump the pass over the neutral zone is the player the snap was intended for (usually the QB).


Illegal to go out of bounds to block an out-of-bounds player

Players may not initiate a block out of bounds. Both players must be out of bounds for this to be a foul.

The spot of the foul is where the blocker crosses the sideline in going out of bounds.


10 yard penalty for illegal batting or kicking

Illegal batting and illegally kicking a loose ball now carry only a 10 yard penalty. (Previously they were 15-yard penalties.) They still may result in a loss of down under certain conditions.


No two-minute warning before 2’00.

If the game clock is running at 2'00 and the ball is dead, the clock shall be stopped and the two-minute warning given then. If the ball is live at 2'00, the two-minute warning shall be given after the ball becomes dead.

Previously, the two-minute warning was taken with "approximately" two minutes remaining. This caused some inconsistency of interpretation, so we have fixed that.



Age groups standardised on school year with 31st August as the cut off, except in Scotland where 28th/29th February will be.

This is to allow players in the same school year to play together. There are different dates for England/Wales and Scotland to reflect the different school systems in each home nation.


A defenseless player is one who because his physical position and focus of concentration is especially vulnerable to injury. Examples of defenseless players are:

·         a player in the act of or just after throwing a pass

·         a receiver whose focus is on catching a pass

·         a kicker in the act of or just after kicking a ball

·         a kick returner whose focus in on catching or recovering a kick in the air

·         a player on the ground at the end of a play

·         a player obviously out of the play

This is a new definition, but not a new concept. Previously something equivalent could be found in the Points of Emphasis section of the rulebook.


If Team A is in a formation to attempt a place kick (field goal or try), it is illegal for three Team B players on their line of scrimmage inside the blocking zone to align shoulder-to-shoulder and move forward together after the snap with primary contact against a single Team A player.

This is a (rare) safety issue. It is now a foul for the defence to triple team an opponent on a field goal (or try) attempt. However, it's only a foul if all three make primary contact against him.


Legal for offensive linemen to lock legs

The previous rule prohibiting offensive linemen other than the snapper and the linemen on either side of him from locking legs has been removed.


Many fewer restrictions on towels

The rule has been tweaked to allow anyone to wear a towel anywhere they like. However, the towel must still be:

·         no larger than 4"x12"

·         white

·         no logos

This has effectively been the BAFA rule for several years so no change should be detected.


No restriction on colour of gloves

There have been varying degrees of regulation of the colour of gloves over the years, but now there is none. It is no longer thought to be a problem in detecting holding if a player's gloves match the colour of his opponent's jersey.


Eye shade must be solid black – no words or symbols

This is a new rule covering the stuff that players put on their cheeks.


Use positive knowledge to stop stadium clock

Previously we instructed stadium game clock operators only to stop the clock when they saw an on-field official's signal. Since in many cases the clock operator is an experienced official, we now allow him to stop the clock when he is sure it should.


End of half clock adjustment possible with instant replay

Not very likely to be used in Britain, but if you do have replay, you can use it to correct the clock.


TV monitors permitted in coaches’ booths

Not a big issue in Britain, but if there are TV monitors in the coaches' booths they can only be used to view the live TV/web feed.

Minor changes

In addition to the changes above, there are editorial changes that mean:

Rule 1-1-3-b adds a requirement that no person outside the team area may be inside the limit lines. This is enforced by game management personnel.

Rule 1-4-11-g give jurisdiction of communication equipment within the playing enclosure to game management personnel.

Rule 2-12-2 specifies that the plane of the goal line extends between and includes the pylons. This is important to note as it links in with a change to Rule 8-2-1-a below.

Rule 2-12-9 defines the north-south line as an imaginary line that is parallel to the sidelines extending from end line to end line. It is used in the new blocking below the waist rule.

Rule 2-27-5 defines the passer as a player who throws a forward pass, not just one who throws a legal forward pass. This has interesting implications when considering roughing the passer fouls as the pass now no longer needs to be legal for the passer to receive protection.

Rule 3-2-3-a-1 now states that a period is not extended if a loss-of-down foul is committed by the team in possession. For example, if an illegal forward pass occurs when time expires, the period is not extended even if the penalty is enforced because of the loss of down. This concept was introduced in the last rule book by an AR.

Rule 4-1-3-b has added the words “at the snap” to again correspond with an AR that says that the ball remains alive when held by the holder for a kick or simulated kick while on the ground. This is simply clarification.

Rule 8-2-1-a removes the differentiation between players who were voluntarily airborne whilst scoring a touchdown and those who were involuntarily airborne. The plane of the goal line is now only extended beyond the pylons if the ball carrier touches the pylon or if the ball carrier is touching the ground in the end zone. Previously, if the player was airborne as a result of contact by an opponent then the plane was extended, but no more.

Rule 8-5-1-a-Exception 2 makes it clear that for the momentum rule to apply the ball must remain in the end zone to prevent a safety.

Rule 9-1-4 makes changes to the rule regarding contact to a defenceless player. It is now illegal to target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenceless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder. This is more specific than the old rule which did not list what was used to make the contact.

Rule 9-1-11-b-3 changes the leaping foul by stating that it is not a foul if an offensive player initiates contact against the player who leaps.

Rule 10-1-5 has a small change to correspond with the change to the unsportsmanlike conduct rule to specify that truly dead-ball UNS fouls are offset and the penalties cancelled in the same way as personal fouls if they are reported before any of the fouls have been completed.

Rule 10-2-5-a-1 adds UNSs to personal foul penalties that can be carried over to either the try or the kickoff if they occur during a down that ends in a touchdown, further reinforcing that the penalties are treated exactly the same as each other.

There are also hundreds of editorial changes including major rewrites that improve the clarity of several sections of the rulebook.


Thanks to NCAA and Stephen Bowness of NZGOA for their contributions to this document.