Flag football is a version of American football or Canadian football where the basic rules of the game are similar to those of the mainstream game (often called "tackle football" for contrast), but instead of tackling players to the ground, the defensive team must remove a flag or flag belt from the ball carrier ("deflagging") to end a down.
Chiefly because there is no dominant sanctioning organization for the sport, the game has mutated into many variations: 9-man, 8-man, 7-man, 6-man, 5-man, and 4-man on a side; coed or single-gender; with kicking and punting and without; with point-after conversions (including some with 1, 2, and 3 point tries) or without; and field sizes that vary from full CFL size, NFL size (120 yards long by 53? yards wide), to fields a third that size.
An important distinction is whether linemen are allowed to catch passes ("Eligible Linemen") or, as in the CFL / NFL, are not allowed to do so ("Ineligible Linemen"). Flag (and touch) football may also be divided into "contact" or "non-contact", depending on whether or not blocking is allowed; if allowed, blocking is usually restricted to the chest.
In non-contact flag football, there is no blocking, usually no linemen, and if there are linemen they can not use their hands to block an opponent. In some leagues defensive players may not get in the way of a runner; they can only attempt to grab the flag without impeding the path of the runner. Offensive players are not allowed to hand block defensive players to prevent them from grabbing the flag. In contact flag football there are typically linemen blocking only around chest area.
The ability or inability for the quarterback to advance the ball past the line of scrimmage by running is another rule subject to variation by league.
The sport has a strong amateur following and several national and international competitions each year sponsored by various associations.
The International Woman's Flag Football Association, otherwise knows as the IWFFA, hosts 8 on 8 flag football tournaments and flag football trainings across the world with participants from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Scotland and several other nations. The organization is the largest organization for women and girls in the sport of flag football. The most active tournament is held each February in Key West, Florida, called the Kelly McGillis Classic where over 90 women and girls teams participate in 8 on 8, semi - blocking contact flag football. There are no restrictions to for girls and women to play.
The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) organizes the IFAF Flag Football World Championship every two years since 2002.
The United States Flag and Touch Football League (USFTL) has a number of smaller organizations spread out over the US. Located in Ohio, this league supports a number of teams from the Mid Atlantic, NorthEast, and Midwest states. On the west coast XFLAGFOOTBALL has over 15 leagues throughout Southern California and Hawaii. In the south, FlagFootballX hosts many of the largest 5on5 cash tournaments, located in Dallas, TX. Texan Flag Football hosts many large tournaments and leagues in the Houston area as well. TAAF hosts a yearly 8on8 State Championship at a rotating location throughout Texas and a couple other events throughout the year. FlagSpin lists all of Texas and the bordering states tournaments in one location to browse but does not host their own events.
The NFL conducts their own Youth World Championship for children 12–14 years of age. Held in different nations around the world. It is five man no contact football played between ten countries. Previous NFL Flag Football World Championships have been held in Beijing, Cologne, Mexico City, Tokyo, Toronto, and Vancouver. The NFL has also at times sanctioned "Air It Out" competitions aimed primarily at its fans in which tournament-winning teams were allowed to compete against retired NFL All-Pros. "Air It Out" has now been rebranded as "Let It Fly" a nation wide tour operated by North American Sports Group. Many universities around the continent have flag football divisions and leagues.