football rules

Football, also known as the American football, is one of the biggest most popular sports in North America and today we will learn football rules. Although the sport is played worldwide, professional leagues like the NFL in North America find no difficulty in getting the top players in the world. As a result, its leagues have become the most competitive. The apex of the game is portrayed as Super Bowl and is played every blessed year to millions of people all around the world.


The NFL is saddled with the responsibility of updating and maintaining the rules of the game.

The Nigerian Football League (NFL)

The NFL was formed in the early 19th century precisely in the year 1920. It was originally regarded as the American Professional Football Association (AFPA) and was renamed to NFL in 1922. It is a professional American football league that consists of 32 teams. The league is divided annually between the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference. It is one of the four main sports leagues in the country of North America and also known as the highest level of professional football in the world that any football player can attain in his career. The league’s session is run on a regular 17-week season running from September to late in December. Each team plays 16 games and have a one-week rest also known as the ‘bye week’. At the end of each season, six teams go on to the playoffs. The six teams consist of four division winners and two wild card teams. The playoffs is a single-elimination tournament that eventually climaxes into the Super Bowl usually held on the first Sunday in February and is played between champions of both leagues i.e. NFC and AFC.

The Game’s Objectives – The Game Play

Each team has its own head referred to as ‘the captain’. The main objective of the game is to score more goal points than your opponents within the stipulated time frame. For this to be possible, the players have to transfer the ball down the field of play in separate stages of play before the ball eventually gets to the end zone and is thrown for a touchdown. Goal points are scored once the ball is able to get to the end zone and can either be passed to and thrown by another team member or the person running with the ball. Each team is given four downs or chances to transfer the ball forward by 10 yards. As soon as 10 yards have been passed, chances reset and another round of running begins. If after the 4 chances they haven’t been able to pass the required 10 yards, they will lose the ball which will then be given to the defense team.

football rules

The offense team score points either by moving the ball into the end zone of the opponent for a touchdown – this goal is worth six points or by simply kicking the ball from going down the pitch and through the vertically raised goal posts – this goal is worth 3 points. Once a touchdown is scored, the offensive team is given another opportunity from a 2-yard point (3 in amateur football) to attempt to score a goal. Goal points scored on this account are recorded between 1 and 2 (i.e.1 point if they offense attempts a field goal kick and 2 points if offense re-advances the ball into the opponent’s touchdown.

When the rival team has the ball, the defense of the team tries to prevent the offense from moving the ball. If the ball is caught by the defensive team while it is in the air or from a player in the opposing team, the defense can attempt to score a goal in the opponent’s touchdown. The defense can score two points from tackling the ball and wrestling it from the offensive team right in the offensive team’s own end zone.

Duration of The Game Play

The football game, at the professional and college level, is a 60-minute game in total. The whole game period is divided into four quarters with each quarter played for 15 minutes. In high school football, however, they may only be for 12 minutes. The whole game can go for more than 3 hours, though, because the clock is usually and frequently stopped at intervals. The referee stops the clock if and when a play goes out of bounds or there’s an incomplete pass.
Each team is usually granted three breaks (known as time outs) in each half which they can use as they see fit. Except it is an untimed play, the clock is always running during plays. Another instance where the clock can be stopped is when officials are observing their own time outs in which case, if the clock was running before it was stopped, it is restarted. If there are issues concerning the game that needs to be attended to, the clock is stopped so as to attend to the issue after which it is restarted. 
Apart from the game clock, the play clock is also used in football games. The play clock is usually timed to run for 25 seconds from the point where the referee signals that the ball is ready for play.

It is used when the offense is required to start the next play; it counts down the time. The main purpose of the play game is to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays and that the game continues at a consistent pace. Generally, time management is of great essence in football – the winning team tries to run out the clock while the other team does just the opposite. In professional football like the NFL, a two-minute warning is usually given at the end of the second and fourth quarters. The warning is given when the quarters (i.e. 2nd and 4th) are two minutes out.

The Rules of Football

Every game has its own rule by which its play is run. The game of football is not left out. The rules inform every activity of and in the tournament.

The Coin Toss

When it is exactly three minutes before the game starts, the referee holds a meeting with both teams’ captains and the purpose of the meeting is to toss a coin. The home team has to give the honor to the visiting team so the visiting team does the toss coin. Whoever wins may either decide to take the first choice of receiving the kick off that will start the game and choosing an end field where they will be able to defend in the first quarter or the winner of the toss may simply choose to defer and start the second half. Teams switch positions at the end of the first and third quarters. Whichever team loses the coin toss will be left with the other choice.

When the second half of the game starts, if the team’s choice was to defer their choice to start the first quarter with a kick off, they will take it up in the third quarter which is the second half. If the game goes overtime, there will be the tossing of a coin before the overtime starts. However, subsequent overtime periods will not need a coin toss. Choices available to captains of the football teams differs from one another. Choices in the NFL is not the same as in colleges and high school matches.

The Kick-Off

No doubt, any true soccer game always begins with a real kick off. The game starts with a kick-off where one team kicks the ball as far down field as possible for the other team to bring the ball back. The defense kicks the football to the offense to begin the action at the start of the game, at the start of the second half of the game, and after the team has been able to score goal points.

The Down Play

The rules of the down play vary from level to level; that of the college level is different from that of professional level. In the NFL, you’re not down unless you’re tagged by an opponent player or you give up. For each team, there is the opportunity of making four downs to gain 10 yards or more. To make the yards, they have two options: either they throw the ball or they run it. The downs are reset and the yard is reset as soon as the team hits the required yards. After 4 downs, failure to make the yard will result in a turn over. These things are:

If the player with the ball does any of the following, such will be downed. Those things are:

  • If any part of the runner’s hits the ground other than his hands or feet. Ankles and wrists are counted as down.
  • If the runner goes out of bounds: that is, if any part of his body, his feet and hands included, touches the ground, or anything except his fellow player or an official, on or past a sideline or an endline. The sideline itself is out of bounds, so the runner is deemed out of bounds if he steps on or touches any part of it. Also, a runner may carry the ball in such a manner that it is over the sideline, so long as the ball or runner does not touch anything that is regarded as out of bounds.
  • If the player with the ball running towards the goal line of his team’s opponents is halted by contact with an opponent, with little or no chance of resuming. Judgement begins, by the officials, at that exact moment when the progress of the player is halted.

How a Down Play Starts

Down usually starts with a snap, which is usually a quarterback, by throwing or handing the ball backward on one side. The quarterback either pushes the ball sideways, throws the ball down or plays with it. The bottom ends with the dead ball. The ball usually is the next one where the ball is dead, but it is brought in on the same line to the nearest hash mark when it is dead outside the hash marks. This spot will be the line of the next game. In case the ball is unfinished forward the spot where they were last snapped to start the next game is returned. The team that recently had control of the ball still declares a fumbled ball that is out of the boundaries and repossessed.

A Dead Ball

Down play stops and a ball is considered dead when:

When the carrier of the falls down (if it hits the ground before a player could claim it);
The carrier of the ball or the ball itself makes contact with the side or end line or the ball goes out of the field otherwise;
The carrier of the ball or the ball itself, exempting the attempt to score a goal point, touches some part of it, or it completely rolls off the field;
Any part of the goalpost (even if it bounces back to the field) is hit by a ball carrier or the ball itself, except for a winning field goal attempt;
A team scores; 
The player being passed the ball was able to catch it.

Players and Their Equipment

Although in any team there are only 11 football players in each team, there are actually 45 players in an American football team. In general, the teams are divided into three groups. They are: the attackers which consist of smaller, stronger, and faster players of the team, including a quarterback whose sole duty is to run the attacking games, and also to make sure that the teammates are the ones who get the ball), the defense players – they are larger, more agile, and stronger players who make it their duty to stop running players) and, lastly, special team players – made up of a mixture of both the players that are large and fast.

An US football court is usually approximately long by 100 yards and wide by 160 yards. There are lines are drawn on the field which are drawn at an interval of 10 yards to show just how far each team would have to run in order to get to the end zone. At each end of the pitch, the end zones are made longer by approximately 20 meters. There are also posts at every end where the kicker over the ball.

How Goal Points are Scored

Six points are awarded to a team if a player in that team scores a touchdown. Goal points can be scored if:
The ball is either carried into the end zone or obtained from a pass or throw through the end zone by a touchdown. Or
The ball is played by the person carrying the ball. The attacking team is given the chance to kick the ball for an additional point after a touchdown is has been scored. The ball needs to go between the upright posts if it would be counted as a goal. The team with the highest goal points during the game will be declared winner at the end of the game. Should it be that the goal points scored by both teams are tied, another quarter will be added for which both teams will play. This will happen until one team has won. This is a typical example of an overtime.

The main goal is the field goal and it carries 3 points. It is scored when the ball kicked by placing, by dropping or by a free kick after being successful at catching the ball. Although the free kick point is only counted in high school football and the NFL. This must be done between the goal posts away from the opposing team’s end zone. The free kick is the most common type of place kick. For it to be a place kick, the holder of the ball must first snap the ball on to a placeholder who then holds on the ground with his fingertip and upright for kicking to take place.

If the ball successfully crosses between the two upright goal posts, passes above the cross bar and remains there, three goal points are scored. If the goal is missed, the ball will be returned to the scrimmage – to the line it was before it was kicked. An official takes a position under a goal post, another does the same. If any one of them rules that the goal is not to be counted, then it would not be counted as a goal. If it is successful, the official at the corresponding goal post will raise his arms vertically above his head. Then, the team that made the goal sends a kick-off to the rival team to start the next game play.

            The touchdown, on the other hand, is scored if a player who has the ball legally plays it such that it touches or flies above and over the virtual vertical plane that is above the rival team’s goal line. As in the field goal, a successful touch down is also signaled by the official who raises his hand above his head vertically. Touchdowns are worth six points. In WFL, however, it is worth 7.


Safety goals carry 2 points. If a player makes the ball dead right in his team’s zone, this is a safety scored. This safety, however, is tagged uncommon.

Free Kick Downs

A kick is considered a free kick down if it does not occur from the scrimmage. The team at the point of the kicking stands at the back of the ball, meanwhile, the team to receive has to remain about 10 yards or more away and down the pitch before the team to kick the ball kicks it.

football rules 2

Summarily, football rules are as follows:

To start the game:

Coin is tossed; winner chooses first and the other team choose the only one remaining.

Kick offs are done at the beginning of the match and at the beginning of the second half of the game and is played by the defense to the offense.

To Play a Game:

The team that holds the ball is the offense and, if they have the ball, they move it forward to the end zone or at least 10 yards and they have four chances to do this. If they fail, the ball will be given to the defense team. If they succeed, they score goal points.

Should the offense be unable to move the ball the required 10 yards, the ball must be turned to the rival team.

If it happens that the offense team has used up all its four downs and failed to cover the 10 yards as required, the defense becomes the offense.

The defense-turn-offense also has four downs to kick the ball to the rival team who failed to make the 10 yards required. Their opponent is given a chance to enter their end zone if they give the ball to them at or close to their own end zone instead of the opponent’s.

After the fourth down, if the offense still fails to meet the required 10 yard, it has two options: make up the yards or kick the ball.

The whole game last 1 hour, without the overtime. With the overtime, it can be more than 3 hours. The standard one hour is divided into four – quarters. Each quarter is 15 minutes with a two-minute break between the quarters and 15-minute break between the halves.

There is no point on the pitch where a field goal cannot be scored. The goal point can be scored at any point and at any time. If the kick is successful, three points goes to the team who made the kick.

The ball must go between the vertically upright posts or it would not be considered successful.

So, there you have it – here’s all the football rules you need to know about football.