Since American football has always been a very physical and therefore injured affair – in the early years it is said that there were even fatalities and therefore also government intervention against such excesses – it was early considered to prevent this harsh physical contact. This is how touch football was first invented, where a physical touch was enough to stop the ball carrier. The variant with tear straps on a belt is said to have been invented in the US Army in the 1940s to reduce the risk of injuries in football, which has always been very popular with soldiers as a leisure activity. This variant was then also increasingly used in civil sports, so today there are more flag football players in the United States than “real” football players.
Flag football has existed in Germany since the mid-1990s, initially only as a school sport. However, it quickly spread to mass sports, and since 1999 league matches have been held.
Important information about the rules
basic idea: As in “real” football: An egg-shaped ball must be brought behind the opposing team’s goal line (end zone) and placed there (touchdown). A game also begins in flag football, where the center at the starting point returns a ball to the quarterback who stands behind him, who then starts the respective attacking move. This is interrupted if a flag is snatched from the ball carrier, if the ball “goes down” or a pass is intercepted.
Each team has four attempts to get to the center line. If she manages to do that, she has four more attempts to get into the opponent’s than zone.
To increase the six points given after a touchdown, there are no kicks as in “real” football, but an extra game is played, starting from a specified distance to the goal zone: There is one point for a successful game of exactly five meters, two points for a successful game of exactly twelve meters.
A safety scores two points if the opposing ball carrier’s tape is drawn in their own end zone.
A special case is when moves to raise not only fail, but in turn even lead to a touchdown by the opponent. Then it gets team two points and then the right to attack on their own 5-yard line.
Other important special rules:
The flags must not be blocked or defended by the player with his hand or with the ball. They must also not be partially covered by the shirt.
The turn ends at the point where the defender pulled the flag off the belt.
A minimum distance before the start of the game is required for any defender who attacks the opposing quarterback after the start of a game.
Overall, this promotes a wide-ranging running and passing game, where speed and dexterity are important, but not so much the use of force. The ban on physical contact also allows for playing flag football with mixed teams.
The most common, even in younger age groups, is the five-to-five variant without physical contact. Blocking is completely dispensed with here. All five players are eligible to catch forward passes. This means that all players are also involved in the attacking game.
There is also a semi-contact variant in the nine-on-nine system used in the German Flag Football League (DFFL). In the case of semi-contact, blocking is allowed, similar to American football. Since 2016, DFFL has also played matches for the five-man variant.
Other variants are played in various other associations and countries. A 7-series variant is used occasionally, for example, when only a limited amount of space is available in a hall.
All that is needed is a special belt with the flags attached. It is played with two flags on the hips, the flag size is 5 times 38 centimeters. The flags must hang freely. They are fastened with a velcro closure or with a special connector.
The shape of a football resembles an oblong ellipsoid with pointed ends, almost 30 centimeters long and weighing up to 420 grams. It is smaller than a rugby ball to make it easier to throw with one hand. The eight seams on one side are characteristic.