Arena football is a high-scoring, fast-paced version of American football played on a smaller field with padded walls and rebound nets. Each team has eight players, and scoring and on-field rules are similar to the NFL. Overtime is sudden death, and the major league is the Arena Football League.
Arena football is a modified version of American football designed to be played in a basketball arena. The game is designed to be a fast-paced, high-scoring alternative to outdoor play. There are many rules in arena soccer that are different from outdoor soccer, but the most notable difference is the smaller field. Arena football is played on a 50-yard field with an 8-yard end zone and the field is only as wide as a hockey rink.
The game is also known for the padded walls that surround the pitch. Walls are particularly popular because of the possibility of players being slammed into walls and because fans are seated directly behind walls, often leaving them within feet of the action of a game. Arena Football also features two massive rebound nets at each end of the pitch. The ball can be thrown or kicked out of these nets and remain alive. Field goal uprights are only 9 feet wide, increasing the likelihood of missed field goals, which can be returned after bouncing off the net.
Because the field is smaller, there are only eight players from each team on the field at one time. Most players play both offense and defense, although each team has an “offensive specialist” and a “defensive specialist” who only play one or the other. Offensive players can go vertical in motion, giving them a run up on pass paths and helping to increase the score.
Scoring is basically the same as in the National Football League, as are most on-field rules. The timing is slightly different, as the clock keeps running for most of the game, then stops after every first down with less than a minute to play. There is also a 1 minute alert instead of a 2 minute alert. Punts are not allowed as field goals can be attempted from anywhere on the field – the longest possible attempt is approximately 64 yards – and missed field goals are returned rather than the ball awarded at the spot of the kick.
Overtime is more like college football, but with some variations. In arena football, each team is given one offensive possession to score. If teams remain tied, it becomes sudden death, with the first team to score the win.
The Arena Football League is the major league, although some minor leagues exist. The Arena Football League began play in 1987 with four teams. As of 2005, the league had grown to 18 teams and increased its profile with celebrity owners such as John Elway, Mike Ditka and Jon Bon Jovi. The league’s championship game, ArenaBowl, moved to Las Vegas in 2005 after being played in the host team’s cities for the first 19 years.