Summary of the Laws of Australian Football (Europe) 2015
Australian Football as played in Europe is a fast and physical sport played across Europe, called“Aussie Rules”, “Australian Football” or just “Footy.”
This summary is intended to be a high level introduction to the full Laws of Australian Football (Europe).
Ground and Ball
The size of the ground determines how many players can take part in the Match. Grounds (Playing Surfaces) between 70m-110m long and 70m-90m wide cater for between 7 and 9 onfield players (9-a-side). Grounds between 90m-135m long and 90m-110m wide accommodate between 9 and 12 onfield players (12-a-side). 9-a-side and 12-a-side matches can have 4 players on the bench. Grounds between 135m-185m long and 110m-155m wide cater for between 14-18 onfield players (Full Format) with 6 on the bench. Leagues determine the maximum number of Australians. A centre square of between 25m2 – 50m2 is marked in the middle of an oval ground. Rugby pitches use the existing 10m and 15m lines. Soccer pitches use the kickoff circle. No more than 4 players (or 1/3rd of the total players, whichever is less) are allowed in the “centre square” at the centre bounce. A boundary line is marked from behind post to behind post on each side of the ground. This must be at least 5m away from any fence or dangerous obstruction. A goal square is marked in front of the goal posts, ideally 9m long by 6.4m wide. Use the nearest existing lines on rugby and soccer pitches. Mark/use cones to identify the interchange at the centre of the boundary line closest to the bench. Mark a goal line between the goal posts and a behind line between each goal and behind post. The “footy” needs to be oval in shape and meet the dimensions described in Law 4. These are available through AFL Europe.
See Laws 3, 4 and 5 for further information.
A goal (6 points) is scored when the ball is kicked (from below the knee) by an attacking player completely over the goal line without being touched by another player and without crossing over or touching the goal post or its attachments.
A behind (1 point) is scored if it completely travels over the behind line without touching the behind post, touches or travels over the goal post, or completely crosses over the goal line after being kicked by an attacking player but before it does it is touched by another player.
There are no scoring zones, a score can be recorded from anywhere a mark or free kick can be paid. Goal posts should be at least 6m tall and behind posts should be at least 3m tall. These po ts should be covered with thick foam (> 35mm) padding to prevent injury, at least to a height of 2.5m. Behind posts should be 6.4m from the goal posts. The goal posts should ideally be 6.4m apart, but on rugby and soccer pitches, use the existing goals. Pad the crossbar and treat it as if it doesn’t exist. See Laws 3 and 12 for further information.
Playing Time, Interchange, Blood Rule and Stretcher
Matches typically have 4 quarters of 20 minutes each. Lightning tournaments have shortened matches of 2 halves of either 12, 15 or 20 minutes. Time is not added for stoppages. Extra time can be played in finals matches, or on a “golden score” basis in Lightning tournaments. Teams can “interchange” on field players with a player from the bench. The player leaving the ground must do so through the interchange gate, unless on a stretcher or because of the blood rule. Except in those cases, the player coming onto the field must wait for the interchanging player to leave the ground. A player coming onto the ground must always do so through the interchange gate.
If a player requires a stretcher, they should be taken via the most direct route to receive medical attention. They must remain off the field for at least 10 minutes of elapsed playing time if the stretcher comes onto the field, regardless of whether it is used by the player.
If a player is actively bleeding or has blood on themselves or their uniform, the game must stop and
the player must leave the field. The player can return via the interchange when the issue is resolved. Players must remove any equipment, jewellery or other attire which in the umpires opinion causes an increased risk of injury. Failure to remove these items may result in the player being sent off. Runners, water carriers and doctors/physios are permitted on the playing surface. Runners may only pass messages and the remaining officials are there to look after the well being of players. All must be listed on the team sheet, and remain on the field no longer than is necessary.
See Laws Laws 6, 7, 9, 10 and 22 for further information.
Possession and Disposal
The object of a match is to score more goals and behinds than your opponent. The ball is more often “in dispute” than it is in possession with either team. Use the ball to generate the overlap and feed into your midfield and forward structures to score.
In a “play on” situation, a player can remain in possession of the ball for any length of time. The ball must be bounced/touched on the ground every 15m if moving. A player must correctly dispose (with prior opportunity) or attempt to correctly dispose (without prior) of the ball when correctly tackled. The ball can be correctly disposed in two ways: kicking or handballing. The ball is kicked when any part of the leg below the knee or the foot makes contact with the ball. The ball is handballed when a player (from a relatively stationary platform hand) strikes the ball with a clenched fist.
When not in possession, a player can tap the ball down or at the same level with an open hand. Scooping, lifting up or propelling the ball upwards with an open hand is not permitted. The ball may be punched from the air or on the ground in any direction. Always make the ball your sole objective. A mark is awarded when a player catches or controls the ball after it has been kicked at least 15m by any other player. A free kick is awarded against a player who infringes against the Laws of Australian Football (Europe).
A player gets a limited period of protection after they have taken a mark or been awarded a free kick. During this limited time, no opposing player may enter the protected area 5m either side and behind them unless following a teammate shoulder-to-shoulder. The player will need to size up their options quickly, as the umpire will call move it on if no disposal looks imminent and then play on to inform everyone that the ball is again available to be won. The protected area can be drawn as follows:
See Laws 1, 14, 15 and 16 for further information.
Out of Bounds
The ball is out of bounds if the whole of the ball crosses the whole of the boundary line, or touches the behind post. The ball is out of bounds on the full if it has been kicked and it has completely crossed the boundary line or behind post on the full, or has not been touched before going out from a kick in.
See Laws 8, 12, 15 and 16 for further information.
At the start of a quarter and after a goal, the ball is taken back to the centre square and bounced by the field umpire.
After a behind, a defending player has a limited time to kick the ball in, from when the goal umpire has signalled. The ball must be kicked from within the goal square. The umpire will warn the player and then call the player to play on if the kick in takes too long – the ball must still be kicked from within the goal square. If the ball is not kicked in, a ball up will be called.
After the ball is pinned in a tackle, if the player did not have prior opportunity, the ball is bounced. After a mark or free kick is paid to a player, the player will have a limited time to dispose of the ball from the protected area.
After the ball goes out of bounds on the full, the nearest opponent is awarded a free kick.
After the ball goes out of bounds, the boundary umpire (or attacking player) throws the ball in. After the ball is bounced straight over the goal or behind lines, after two players from opposite teams enter the centre square simultaneously, if the ball is near an injured player, or after a mark is cancelled (and the umpire believes the play on call was not seen or heard), the ball is bounced. At ruck contests and marking contests, players must make contesting the ball their sole objective and incidental contact is permitted.
See aspects of Laws 11, 13, 14, 15 and 16 for further information.
Refer to the Spirit of the Laws, the Holding the Ball Flowchart and (in particular) Law 15 of the Laws of Australian Football (Europe). The purpose and spirit of the Laws is to ensure the match is played in a fair manner and spirit of true sportsmanship; and to protect players from sustaining injury (in as much as this is a contact sport).
The Laws of Australian Football (Europe) are adapted for our region. Our Laws are in essence similar to those played at the elite level, with the following exceptions:
- The holding the ball decision is interpreted with the intent of encouraging the ball player. The terms “prior opportunity,” “reasonable time” and “genuine attempt” interpreted in accordance with the skill levels of the players participating in the match.
- Deliberate rushed behinds are not penalised: the behind is recorded.
- Ducking is interpreted with caution: a free kick for a high tackle will be awarded if the umpire has any doubt as to whether there was an actual duck.
- Only 1 player from each team may contest a centre or field bounce, or boundary throw in.
- Advantage can be recalled immediately if there was no advantage.
- 25m penalties are used in place of 50m penalties on 9- and 12-a-side playing surfaces.
- No differentiation between passive or active encroachment of the protected area: a 25m/50m penalty is applied to an opponent who unduly encroaches into the area.
- No maximum number of runners on the field, no interchange cap, no sub rule.
- Provision for 9-,12-, and 16-/18-a-side matches.
- Provision for games to be played on soccer, rugby, oval pitches or open fields.
- Clubs are not required to maintain a second set of guernseys for their teams.
Law 15 (amongst others) provides further information.
Tackling and Holding the Ball
A player in possession may be tackled fairly by being held below the shoulders and above the knees.
The intent of the tackler must be to win possession of the ball, not to injure their opponent. A tackle may be applied from the front, side or back, but any tackle from the back must not thrust the player forward. A player who does not have possession of the ball may not be tackled, but may be shepherded (blocked) away from the ball, so long as the ball is within 5m and that player is not contesting the ruck or a mark. A free kick will be awarded against the tackler for any infringement. If the tackle causes the ball to spill or be knocked free, play on will be the call.
The intent of a player who is fairly tackled while in possession of the ball must be to kick or handball. If the player has had prior opportunity, they must successfully and immediately dispose of the ball. If the player has not had prior, they must make a genuine attempt to dispose. A free kick will be awarded against the ball player if this does not occur.
A prior opportunity is the time needed by a player to control and do something meaningful with the ball. This varies by player skill and weather conditions. A player is deemed to have had prior opportunity when taking the ball from the ruck or dived on / dragged the ball under themselves. For a general understanding of the Tackling and Holding the Ball Laws, refer to the Holding the Ball flowchart on our Laws page. The complete description is found in Laws 15.2, 15.3 and 15.4.
Play On, 25/50m Penalties and Advantage
The majority of a match will be conducted in a “play on” situation. During “play on,” any player may fairly attempt to win possession of the ball when it is in dispute or in clear space. The umpire will call play on each and every time it is needed to make clear a free kick, mark or score will not be paid. These include after any physical contest for the ball, when the ball is near to the boundary or scoring areas, amongst others.
A 25m penalty (on 9- or 12-a-side playing surfaces) or 50m penalty (on Full Format playing surfaces) will be paid for unduly delaying play, a first strike under the three strike rule or after a count, A 25m / 50m penalty will also be paid where – but for a free kick or mark already having been awarded to the same team – a further free kick would have ordinarily been awarded.
Advantage can be paid if a free kick is awarded and play continues to that team’s advantage as if the whistle had not been blown. Advantage can be recalled if it becomes immediately apparent that there was no advantage (player under pressure, rather than for a poor disposal). If the player infringed plays on, there is no advantage: play on is the call.
See Laws 17 and 18 (amongst others) for further details.
Send Offs and Reports
A player may be sent off for committing an act which brings the game into disrepute. Players reported for making contact with or striking an umpire (or attempting to do so), abusing an umpire, kicking another person or committing a serious act of misconduct will receive a red card and be removed for the remainder of the match. Players reported for any other reportable offence will receive a yellow card be removed for 20 minutes of elapsed playing time. Players sent off may not be replaced. Players who receive a red card must attend a tribunal hearing.
A three strike rule is in place to combat umpire abuse. Abuse can be physical or psychological and is any intentional or careless maltreatment of one person by another. Abuse has no place in sport. A free kick and 25m/50m penalty is awarded against a player for a first strike. A player receives a Yellow Card for a second strike. A player receives a Red Card and is removed from the match for a third strike.
For further information, see Laws 9, 18, 19 and 20.
Member leagues can apply to AFL Europe for advice on and ratification of local variations. See Law 2
for further information.