BAFA Rules align with USA and Europe

BAFA has agreed that British gridiron will henceforth be played to American "college" rules.

The change, which takes effect from the start of the BSL season, brings Britain into line with most of the rest of Europe in playing to the rules formulated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the main governing body of college sport in the US. NCAA rules are also used for international competition in Europe and worldwide.

While the playing rules have been aligned, BAFA will still retain its own "Rule 1", which covers field markings, player uniform requirements and medical facilities. "The standards laid down by NCAA are too rigid for most British teams to be able to meet", said BAFA Rules Committee Chairman Jim Briggs. "We need to be able to play games on 90-yard fields in many venues, and it's not reasonable to penalise players just because they don't have the same colour pants as their teammates." Britain will also retain its own rules for youth kitted football and for game management requirements. British procedures for refereeing games will also be retained, since they form the European standard.

Few of the rule changes will be noticed by players and coaches, and even fewer by spectators. "The main change that people might see is a player who is sent off for a second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty", said Briggs. "It's a bit like in soccer where two yellow cards make a red, but in
American football it only applies to penalties for abusive language, taunting, inappropriate celebrations, time wasting and similar fouls, including players who remove their helmet on the field of play in anger or to celebrate."

A recent change to NCAA rules will make it legal for a head coach to call a timeout. This may enable a team to stop the clock faster in late-game situations. There are also changes that exempt players from being penalised for roughing the passer if they are blocked into him, and to protect
players who are leaped upon by opponents attempting to block a kick. A change has also been made to increase player safety in youth kitted league games by disallowing blocking below the waist in all situations.

Prior to this year, British rules had been a mixture of college rules, NFL rules (such as narrow hashmarks and sudden-death overtime) and a few local exceptions. Gradually, the number of exceptions has been reducing, and this year the Committee decided to remove the remaining ones.

BAFA Chairman Gary Marshall welcomed the changes. "This brings British football into line with all the major European competitions, including the European Championships we will be competing in in Sweden in July. It's a big step forward for the development of the game in this country."

The Rules Committee also agreed to carry out a review of the medical facilities that are required for games, and to draw up regulations for dealing with cases of bringing the game into disrepute. Working parties on these subjects will report later in the year.

For a full list of rules changes, see