Arena football is a variety of indoor gridiron football played by the Arena Football League (AFL) and China Arena Football League (CAFL). The game is played indoors on a smaller field than American or Canadian outdoor football, resulting in a faster and higher-scoring game. The sport was invented in 1981, and patented in 1987, by Jim Foster, a former executive of the National Football League and the United States Football League. The name is trademarked by Gridiron Enterprises and had a proprietary format until its patent expired in 2007. Due to the patent, other indoor American football leagues that launched following the popularity of the original AFL developed variants on the arena rules.
Three leagues have played under arena football rules: the AFL, which played 22 seasons from 1987 to 2008 and resumed play under new ownership in 2010, AF2, the AFL's erstwhile developmental league, which played 10 seasons from 2000 through 2009, and the CAFL, which began play in 2016 but is not directly affiliated with the AFL.
|Highest governing body||Arena Football League|
|Nicknames||Indoor football, football, gridiron football|
|First played||June 19, 1987; Washington Commandos vs. Pittsburgh Gladiators|
|Team members||8 at a time|
|Type||Indoor pro football|
While attending the 1981 Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) All-Star Game on February 11 at Madison Square Garden, Jim Foster came up with his version of football and wrote the rules and concepts down on the outside of a manila folder, which resides at the Arena Football Hall of Fame. Over the next five years, he created a more comprehensive and definitive set of playing rules, playing field specifications and equipment, along with a business plan to launch a proposed small, initial league to test market the concept of arena football nationally. As a key part of that plan, while residing in the Chicago area, he tested the game concept through several closed door practice sessions in late 1985 and early 1986 in nearby Rockford. After fine tuning the rules, he then secured additional operating capital to play several test games in the MetroCentre in April 1986, and the Rosemont Horizon Arena in February 1987.
The next critical step for Jim Foster was securing a network television contract with ESPN and an initial group of key national corporate sponsors including United Airlines, Holiday Inn, Wilson Sporting Goods, Budget Rental Car, and Hardees Restaurants. As the league's founding commissioner he established a league office with a small staff in suburban Chicago, and with addition of some much needed additional investor capital, was ready to launch the Arena Football League. On June 19, 1987, the Pittsburgh Gladiators hosted the Washington Commandos in the first league game after a two-week training camp for all four charter teams in Wheaton, Illinois.
AFL football operations and training was overseen by veteran college and pro head coach, Mouse Davis, the father of the famed "run and shoot" offense, (which became the basis for the high scoring arena football offense still in use today). The other two 1987 teams were the Chicago Bruisers and the Denver Dynamite, (the ArenaBowl I champions). As the AFL grew into an established league with close to 20 teams, it defined itself as a major market pro sports product and welcomed commissioner C. David Baker (1996–2008). In the early 2000s the league appeared to have financially strong team ownership including NFL owners, as well as major names in the entertainment world, and, for a while, a weekly Sunday afternoon broadcast on NBC starting the week after the Super Bowl, during the stadium-played game's off season. The growth and establishment of the AFL as a major market league spawned a developmental league that Foster also helped co-found, a minor league called Arena Football 2 (af2), in 2000. The league was set up to operate in medium size markets around the U.S. where it initially enjoyed growth under the guidance of af2 president Jerry Kurz. Many other people have started their own indoor football minor leagues. These leagues do not technically play arena football or use the proper name "Arena Football" which is a registered trademark, and initially because of the patent on the rules (specifically for the rebound nets, and related rules) that Foster obtained in 1990 (which was actually held by Gridiron Enterprises, Inc., of which Foster is one of three partners). The other two partners were Chicago based lawyers Bill Niro and Jerry Kurz, who in early 1987 joined Foster to help secure the patents on the Arena Football game system and re-establish the Arena Football League in early 1990 as a franchised league after successfully removing a small group of limited partners for multiple breaches of the limited partnership agreement that was the basis for operating the AFL during the 1988 season. The patents expired in 2007. The trademarks only cover the words "arena football" in that order and in immediate succession; since 2017, other indoor leagues have described themselves as "arena" leagues in their name without official endorsement from Gridiron Enterprises, such as the National Arena League and American Arena League.
Arena football is played exclusively indoors, in arenas usually designed for either basketball or ice hockey teams. The field is the same width (85 feet (26 m)) and length (200 feet (61 m)) as a standard NHL hockey rink, making it approximately 55% of the dimensions of a regular American gridiron football field (the total playing area, including the end zones of an Arena football field is 17,000 square feet (1,600 m2)). The scrimmage area is (50 yards (46 m)) long (unlike the field in NFL which is (100 yards (91 m)) yards long), and each end zone is approximately (8 yards (7.3 m)) deep (two yards less than the standard 10 yards). Depending on the venue in which a game is being played, the end zones may be rectangular (like a basketball court) or, where necessary because of the building design, rounded (like a hockey rink). Each sideline has a heavily padded barrier, with the padding placed over the hockey dasher boards.
The goalpost uprights are 9 feet (2.7 m) wide, and the crossbar is 15 feet (4.6 m) above the playing surface. Taut rebound nets on either side of the posts bounce any missed field goals back into the field of play. The ball is "live" when rebounding off these nets or their support apparatus. The entire goalframe and goalside rebound net system is suspended on cables from the rafters. The bottom of the two goalside rebound nets are 8 feet (2.4 m) off the playing surface. Each netframe is 32 feet (9.8 m) high by 30 feet (9.1 m) wide.
A player is not counted as out of bounds on the sidelines unless he is pushed into or falls over the sideline barrier. This rule was put in place before the 2006 season. Before that time, a sideline with only a small amount of space (typically 6" to 12") existed between the sideline stripe and the barrier which would provide the space for a ball carrier to step out of bounds before hitting the sideline barrier.
Each team fields 8 players at a time from a 21-man active roster. Before 2007, players played both offense and defense except for the Quarterback, Kicker, and Offensive Specialist (Wide Receiver/Running Back combination) and two Defensive Specialists (Defensive Backs).
If a player enters and leaves, from the moment he leaves the player is considered "dead" and cannot return to play until the designated time is served.
Exception: a "dead" player may participate on kickoffs, or as long snapper or holder. In 2006, the AFL changed its substitution rules such that free substitutions were allowed on all kickoffs.
The most significant change was the introduction of free substitution, the so-called "Elway Rule". Previously, AFL coaches were limited to one substitution per position per quarter. Since the 2007 season, coaches can substitute players at will.
The rationale was that free substitution would improve the overall quality of football in the league by giving coaches the freedom to put their best players on the field for every play of the game, and that teams would be able to select from a wider player talent pool when building their rosters. Traditionalists, however, believed the rule changes were the beginning of the removal of the "Ironman" (two-way offense and defense) style of play of arena football that the league had actively promoted for 20 seasons, and that removing the "Ironman" style of play took away a key component of what made arena football a distinctive sport over other versions of football (NFL, CFL, other indoor leagues, etc.).
Four offensive players must be on the line of scrimmage at the snap; one of the linemen must declare himself the tight end. One offensive player may be moving forward at the time of the snap as long as he has not yet crossed the line of scrimmage. Three defensive players must be in a three- or four-point stance at the start of the snap. Two defenders serve as linebackers, called the Mac and the Jack. The Mac may blitz from the side of the line opposite the offensive Tight End. The Jack's role has changed after new rules set in place by the league in 2008. The Jack cannot blitz, but under new, more defense-friendly rules, the Jack Linebacker may roam sideline to sideline within five yards of the line of scrimmage and drop into coverage once the Quarterback pump fakes. (Before this rule, the Jack could not drop back into coverage until the ball is thrown or the quarterback is no longer in the pocket, and the Jack had to stay within the box designated by the outside shoulders of the offensive line, the line of scrimmage, and five (5) yards back from the line of scrimmage.)
The ball is kicked off from the goal line, to start the halves and odd overtimes, or after any score. The team with the ball is given four downs to gain ten yards or score. Punting is illegal because of the size of the playing field, however, a field goal that either misses wide (therefore bouncing off the nets surrounding the goalposts) or falls short, may be returned. Thus an impossibly long field goal is tantamount to a punt in other football variants. A receiver jumping to catch a pass needs to get only one foot down in bounds for the catch to be ruled a completed catch, just as in college football. Practically, this means that one foot must touch the ground before the receiver is pushed into the boards by an opposing player. Passes that bounce off the rebound nets remain "live." Balls that bounce off the padded walls that surround the field are "live"; the end zone walls were not live until the 2006 season.
The scoring is the same as in the NFL with the addition of a drop kick field goal worth four points during normal play or two points as a post-touchdown conversion. Blocked extra points and turnovers on two-point conversion attempts may be returned by the defensive team for two points.
Coaches are given 2 (two) challenges per game, as in the NFL; to do so, they must throw the red flag before the next play. If the play stands as called after the play is reviewed they lose a timeout; however, if the play is reversed they keep their timeouts. If a team wins two straight challenges they are granted a third. All challenges are automatic in the final half-minute of regulation and all overtime periods, as they are on all scoring plays and turnovers.
A game has four 15-minute quarters with a 15-minute halftime (ArenaBowl has a 30-minute interval). Teams are allowed three timeouts per half, and two per overtime period if regulation ends tied.
The clock stops for out-of-bounds plays, incomplete passes, or sacks only in the last half-minute of regulation or overtime (there is only a half-minute warning, as opposed to the two-minute warning in the AAF/NFL and the three-minute warning in the CFL) or because of penalties, injuries or timeouts. The clock also stops for any change in possession, until the ball is marked ready for play; for example, aside from the final half-minute of regulation or overtime, time continues to run down after a touchdown, but stops after an extra point or two-point conversion attempt. If a quarter ends as a touchdown is scored, an untimed conversion attempt takes place. The play clock is 30 seconds, starting at the end of the previous play. In all arenas, the final minute of the period is measured in tenths of a second.
Prior to the 2018 season, during the final minute of the fourth quarter, the clock stopped if the offensive team had the lead and did not advance the ball past the line of scrimmage. This prevented the "victory formation" (the offensive team merely kneeling down), or running other plays that are designed solely to exhaust the remaining time rather than to advance the ball downfield. This rule was eliminated in the interest of player safety.
In the first overtime, each team gets one possession to score. Whoever is ahead after one possession wins. If the teams are tied after each has had a possession, true sudden death rules apply thereafter. Each overtime period is 15 minutes, and continues from the ending of the previous overtime period until the tie is broken. All overtimes thereafter are true sudden death; no games can be tied. This includes both games of all semifinal series.
Before the 2007 season, there was one 15-minute overtime period, and if it expired with the teams still tied, the game was recorded as a tie. There were two ties in AFL history before the 2007 rule change (although a cancelled game in 2015 was simply ruled a tie):
Before 2007, the play clock was 25 seconds, and it began on the signal from the referee.
Some AFL players have gone on to have successful careers in the NFL, most notably Kurt Warner. Warner played college football at University of Northern Iowa and then quarterbacked the AFL's Iowa Barnstormers to ArenaBowl X in 1996 and ArenaBowl XI in 1997, before earning two NFL MVP Awards, a Super Bowl MVP Award and quarterbacking two teams to the Super Bowl, winning Super Bowl XXXIV. Warner was later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the only person to play a substantial portion of his professional career (as opposed to a short publicity stunt, as was the case with Joe DeLamielleure's brief tenure in the sport) playing arena football.
Another, probably the second most notable behind Warner, could be Fred Jackson, although he never technically played arena football. Jackson played indoor football with the Sioux City Bandits in 2004 when they played in the NIFL (2004) and the UIF in 2005 before finally moving on to NFL Europa's Rhein Fire in 2006, then to the NFL after Rhein.
Following an initial undistinguished NFL career, being released or unsigned for four seasons out of eight, quarterback Tommy Maddox would revitalize himself with the AFL's New Jersey Red Dogs for one season before going on to quarterback the Los Angeles Xtreme to the XFL championship win and eventually return to the NFL for five seasons, retiring with a Super Bowl ring after the Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XL.
Other Arena to NFL graduates include Anthony Armstrong, Oronde Gadsden, Lincoln Coleman, Adrian McPherson, Rashied Davis, Jay Feely, David Patten, Rob Bironas, Antonio Chatman, Mike Vanderjagt, and Paul Justin. Former Arena League MVP Jay Gruden (brother of Jon Gruden) went on to coach the Orlando Predators of the AFL, Florida Tuskers of the United Football League and is currently the head coach for the Washington Redskins. Eddie Brown, voted in 2006 as the greatest player in AFL history, never played in the NFL, but his son Antonio Brown joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010 and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2013-2018. Current Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy was a quarterback in the AFL from 2002-2008.
Even though arena football is a relatively young sport, it has appeared in various forms of popular culture over the course of its existence:
The 1999 Arena Football League season was the 13th season of the Arena Football League. It was succeeded by 2000. The league champions were the Albany Firebirds, who defeated the Orlando Predators in ArenaBowl XIII.2001 Arena Football League season
The 2001 Arena Football League season was the 15th season of the Arena Football League. It was succeeded by 2002. The league champions were the Grand Rapids Rampage, who defeated the Nashville Kats in ArenaBowl XV.2002 Arena Football League season
The 2002 Arena Football League season was the 16th season of the Arena Football League. It was succeeded by 2003. The league champions were the San Jose SaberCats, who defeated the Arizona Rattlers in ArenaBowl XVI. In the process the SaberCats came closer to a perfect season than any other team in the history of the league, winning sixteen of seventeen games.2003 Arena Football League season
The 2003 Arena Football League season was the 17th season of the Arena Football League. It was succeeded by 2004. The league champions were the Tampa Bay Storm, who defeated the Arizona Rattlers in ArenaBowl XVII. The AFL expanded its season from 14 games to 16 games.2004 Arena Football League season
The 2004 Arena Football League season was the 18th season of the Arena Football League. It was succeeded by 2005. The league champions were the San Jose SaberCats, who defeated the Arizona Rattlers in ArenaBowl XVIII. The AFL reduced its playoff teams from the top 12 teams in the league making the playoffs to the top eight teams in the league making the playoffs.2005 Arena Football League season
The 2005 Arena Football League season was the 19th season of the Arena Football League. The league champions were the Colorado Crush, who defeated the Georgia Force in ArenaBowl XIX. The AFL changed its playoff format to allow the top four teams per conference to make the playoffs. Previously, the top eight teams in the league make the playoffs, regardless of their conference. Also, there was no inter-conference play in the playoffs until the Arena Bowl starting in 2005. The division champions also received an automatic playoff berth. This was probably brought on by the fact that the year before the Eastern Division champion New York Dragons missed the playoffs.2006 Arena Football League season
The 2006 Arena Football League season was the 20th season of the Arena Football League. The league champions were the Chicago Rush, who defeated the Orlando Predators in ArenaBowl XX.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans VooDoo franchise suspended operations before the start of the season. However, the league added two teams, the Kansas City Brigade and the Utah Blaze, expanding to 18 teams. The AFL also expanded its playoff format to 12 teams with six teams per conference.2008 Arena Football League season
The 2008 Arena Football League season was the 22nd season of the Arena Football League and final season before the 2009 season cancellation and subsequent bankruptcy of the original AFL corporate entity. The regular season began play on February 29, 2008 and concluded on June 22. The playoffs began the following week, and ArenaBowl XXII was held in New Orleans, Louisiana on July 27 between the National Conference champion Philadelphia Soul and the American Conference champion San Jose SaberCats. This game was won by the Soul, 59–56.
Prior to the season, it was announced that the Austin Wranglers would move to the af2, and the Nashville Kats folded, thus leaving the league with 17 teams. The Las Vegas Gladiators relocated to Cleveland.2010 Arena Football League season
The 2010 Arena Football League season was the 23rd season in the history of the league. The regular season began on April 2, 2010 and ended on July 31. The season ended with ArenaBowl XXIII on August 20.2011 Arena Football League season
The 2011 Arena Football League season was the 24th season in the history of the league. The regular season began on March 11, 2011 and ended on July 23, 2011. The Jacksonville Sharks, in their second year of existence, defeated the Arizona Rattlers 73–70 in ArenaBowl XXIV on August 12, 2011 to conclude the playoffs.2012 Arena Football League season
The 2012 Arena Football League season was the 25th season in the history of the league. The regular season began on March 9, 2012 with a game between the Pittsburgh Power and the Orlando Predators and ended on July 22, 2012 with a game between the Utah Blaze and Philadelphia Soul. The Arizona Rattlers defeated the Philadelphia Soul by a 72–54 score in ArenaBowl XXV on August 10, 2012 to conclude the playoffs.2014 Arena Football League season
The 2014 Arena Football League season was the 27th season in the history of the league. The regular season began on March 14, 2014 and ended on July 26, 2014.2015 Arena Football League season
The 2015 Arena Football League season was the 28th season in the history of the league. The regular season began on March 27, 2015 and ended on August 8, 2015.AF2
The AF2 (often styled as af2, and short for arenafootball2) was the Arena Football League's developmental league; it was founded in 1999 and played its first season in 2000. Like its parent AFL, the AF2 played using the same arena football rules and style of play. League seasons ran from April through July with the postseason and ArenaCup championship in August. The AF2 continued to operate while the AFL suspended operations for its 2009 season. The league was effectively disbanded in September 2009 when no team committed to playing in 2010, but several of the stronger franchises transferred into the reconstituted AFL.Like most other minor sports leagues, the AF2 existed to develop football players and also to help players adapt to the style and pace of arena football. In addition, the AF2 was similar to other minor leagues because AF2 teams played in smaller cities and smaller venues. While the AFL was played in cities like Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Chicago, the AF2 fielded teams in cities which are part of metropolitan statistical areas ranging in size from Milwaukee (with 1,739,497 residents) to Albany, Georgia (with 164,000 residents). Also in common with other minor professional sports leagues, players also earned less than in the AFL, with each player making $200 per game.Arena Football League
The Arena Football League (AFL) is a professional indoor American football league in the United States. It was founded in 1987 by Jim Foster, making it the third longest-running professional football league in North America, after the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the National Football League (NFL). The AFL plays a proprietary code known as arena football, a form of indoor American football played on a 66-by-28 yard field (about a quarter of the surface area of an NFL field), with rules encouraging offensive performance, resulting in a faster-paced and higher-scoring game. The sport was invented in the early 1980s and patented by Foster, a former executive of the United States Football League (USFL) and the NFL.
From 2000 to 2009, the AFL had its own developmental league, the af2. The AFL played 22 seasons from 1987 to 2008; internal issues caused the league to cancel its 2009 season, though the af2 did play. Later that year both the AFL and af2 were dissolved and reorganized as a new corporation comprising teams from both leagues, and the AFL returned in 2010. The league's average game attendance since returning in 2010 has been approximately 9,500.
The league has historically had a nationwide footprint, and has been recognized as the most prominent professional indoor football league in North America, offering higher payment, more widespread media exposure, and a longer history than competing leagues. From a high of 19 teams in 2007, the league contracted to a low of four teams in 2018, all in the northeastern United States. Six teams are announced for the 2019 season.Bill Weber
William "Bill" Weber (born May 8, 1957) is a former television sports commentator best known for his work on TNT and NBC NASCAR broadcasts. Weber was also the lead announcer for Champ Car World Series events and other auto racing series on NBC. He currently is working as an illusionist.List of Arena Football League arenas
The following is a list of Arena Football League (AFL) arenas. American and Canadian football is traditionally played outdoors on grass or artificial turf fields 120–150 yards (109.73–137.16 m) in length. However, arena football is played in covered climate-controlled multi-purpose venues. The field is comparable to the size of a National Hockey League rink, allowing 50 yards (46 m) for a scrimmage area. The AFL was established in 1987 and features arena football teams across the United States. In 2014, the average AFL attendance was 8,473 per game. That year the Tampa Bay Storm averaged the most attendees per game with 11,402. The Orlando Predators were the least attended team in 2014 drawing an average of 5,421 per game. Talking Stick Resort Arena was the home of the Arizona Rattlers from 1992 until the team's departure in 2016, making it the longest operating AFL venue. The smallest venue to house an AFL team was the 5,000 seat West Palm Beach Auditorium, the home of the Florida Bobcats from 1996 to 1998. ArenaBowl IX at the Thunderdome (now Tropicana Field) in St. Petersburg, Florida on September 1, 1995, was the highest attended game in AFL history (25,087). Joe Louis Arena in Detroit has been host to four ArenaBowls (1989, 1990, 1991, 1993).Philadelphia Soul
The Philadelphia Soul are a professional arena football team based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They compete in the Arena Football League (AFL). The Soul have made five ArenaBowl appearances, winning their first appearance (2008 against the San Jose SaberCats) and losing their next two appearances (2012 and 2013 both to the Arizona Rattlers). The Soul won in their fourth appearance, against the Rattlers in 2016, winning 56–42. They also won in their fifth appearance in 2017 against the Tampa Bay Storm, winning 44–40.
The club was established in 2004 when a group, led by Jon Bon Jovi, secured the rights to an AFL franchise in Philadelphia. The AFL folded before the proposed 2009 season was to begin, but was purchased and revived in 2010. After two seasons of inactivity in 2009 and 2010, the Soul returned in 2011 headed by Ron Jaworski.Tampa Bay Storm
The Tampa Bay Storm were a professional arena football team based in Tampa, Florida, U.S. that played in the Arena Football League (AFL). The team, along with the Chicago Bruisers, Denver Dynamite and Washington Commandos, joined the AFL in 1987 as one of the charter franchises, and by 1992 it was the last of the four still operating. The team ceased operations in 2017.
The franchise was originally located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and known as the Pittsburgh Gladiators. The franchise relocated to Tampa Bay in 1991, changing its name in the process. The team played in St. Petersburg from 1991 to 1996, then in Tampa until 2008, after which point the AFL suspended operations and did not return until the 2010 season following the league's restructuring. It had been in the same city for longer than any other AFL team. During its tenure the franchise won five ArenaBowl championships. With 241 wins, the Storm had won far more games than any other team in AFL history.
The club was last owned by Jeffrey Vinik, also the owner of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning. Home games were played at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
|Stick and ball sports|
Gridiron football concepts
|Levels of play|