Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Arena football is a sport invented by Jim Foster, a former executive of the United States Football League and the National Football League. While attending an indoor soccer game in 1981 at Madison Square Garden, he developed the basic rules of the sport. Over the next five years, he continued to modify the rules, and play some test games, until he was ready to launch the Arena Football League in 1987. The league spawned a minor league called af2 in 2000. Other people have started their own indoor football leagues. These leagues do not technically play Arena Football, however, because of the patent on the rules (specifically for the rebound nets) that Foster obtained in 1990.
Rules of the game
Arena football is similar to American football, so only the important differences between its rules and those of the National Football League are articulated here. In addition to differences relating to the reduced field size, the rule differences are intended to make the arena game faster-paced and higher scoring.
Arena football is played exclusively indoors, in arenas usually designed for basketball or hockey teams. However, the game is best played in arenas where hockey teams play. The field is 50 yards long with 8 yard end zones. There is a heavily padded wall on each sideline. The field goal uprights are 9 feet wide, and the crossbar is 15 feet 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.
Each team fields eight players from a 20-man active roster. Players must play both offense and defense except for the quarterback, kicker, an offensive specialist (who returns kicks on defense) and two defense specialists. Non-specialists may only substitute once per quarter.
Four offensive players must be on the line of scrimmage at the snap. One offensive player may be moving forward at the time of the snap. Three defensive players must be in a three- or four-point stance at the start of the snap. Two defenders serve as linebackers and may blitz from either side of the line but cannot drop back into coverage until the ball is thrown or the quarterback pump-fakes.
The ball is kicked off from the goal line. The team with the ball is given four downs to gain ten yards or score. Punting is illegal. A receiver jumping to catch a pass needs to get only one foot down in bounds for the catch to stand. Passes that bounce off the rebound nets remain live. The defending team may return field goal attempts that bounce off the rebound nets.
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.
The clock stops for out of bounds plays or incomplete passes only in the last minute of each half (one minute warning, as opposed to the two minute warning in the NFL) or due to penalties, injuries or timeouts. Halftime lasts 15 minutes, 12 minutes on games shown on NBC. Overtime periods last a maximum of 15 minutes in the regular season. Each team gets one possession to score. If, after each team has had one possession, one team is ahead, that team wins. If the teams are tied after each has had a possession, the next team to score ("sudden death") wins. If overtime expires with the teams still tied, it is a tie game. It has happended twice in history.
The clock also stops in the last minute if the offensive team has the lead and fails to advance the ball past the line of scrimmage. This prevents the offensive team from merely kneeling down or running other plays that are designed solely to exhaust the remaining time rather than to advance the ball downfield as often occurs in the outdoor game.
Los Angeles Avengers player Al Lucas was killed from a presumed spinal cord injury on Sunday, April 11, 2005 in a game against the New York Dragons Although it might be attributed to the rough style of Arena Football, the tackle, during a first quarter kickoff, was not much different from those in stadium-played American football. Lucas was 26.
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