USAFL Amendments to the Laws of Australian Football

This document is how the USAFL modifies the Laws of Australian Football (as published by the AFL) for all games sanctioned by the USAFL. Any questions on the rules or
interpretations to the rules are to be submitted to the USAFL Umpires Association Rules Committee.

USAFL Laws Variations to AFL Laws

2023 AFL Laws

USAFL Disciplinary & Tribunal Policy

Clause 5.2 Variation of Number
In all USAFL sanctioned games the participating teams shall agree before the match on the number of players on the field, taking into consideration the size of the field, length of game, and
other conditions.
50/50 Participation Rule
All USAFL sanctioned games are subject to the 50/50 rule: a team must have a minimum of 50% Nationals, i.e. Americans/Canadians. All others are considered Non-Nationals and are counted toward the 50%.
Clause 5.5.3(c) Counting of Players – Players Exceeding Permitted Number
The USAFL adopted this change in 2019: The Penalty regarding loss of points for this offence has been changed from loss of points in the Match to “Loss of all points scored in that quarter up to the time of the count”. The other penalties for a player count (whether Exceeding or Not Exceeding) are unchanged.
The USAFL continues to apply this Law to both total players on the and total Non-National players on the field.
Clause 6 Team Officials and Team Runners
The new AFL Law regarding Team Officials allows the Controlling Body (the USAFL) to specify when team officials may enter the playing surface. Because the USAFL plays matches  primarily in summer and at the community level, a team may have Water Runners on the field at any time provided they don’t interfere with the playing of the match and do not carry messages (that is the duty of the Team Runner). Team Runners may enter at any time provided they do not interfere with the match, deliver their message and return the sideline. Per Clause 17.13 these team officials must not be in the 50-Meter Arc during a Kick Out after a Behind.
USAFL: The USAFL does NOT adopt the AFL rule and continues with the rule as described above.

Clause 10.5 Stopping and Recommencing Time
USAFL Clubs do not have the capacity to add time on for stoppages and USAFL tournaments are on tight schedules; therefore, games will continue to be played without "time on". Should a
serious injury (e.g., a stretcher or ambulance is required to enter the field) occur during any USAFL sanctioned game the controlling umpire must signal to the timekeeper to stop the clock.
The Controlling Umpire will signal the timekeeper to re-start the clock and signal “time on” to the players once the Controlling Umpire considers it safe to do so.

Clause 13.1 Starting Positions
Implementation of a traditional set up at center bounces – Clubs must have six Players inside both 50-Meter arcs, with one Player required to be inside the Goal Square. Four Midfield players
are positioned inside the Centre Square with the Wingmen required to be placed somewhere along the Wing.
USAFL: The USAFL does NOT adopt this rule.
Repeal of Clause 15.2.3 (b) Ruck Contests – Prior Opportunity
The USAFL adopted this change in 2019: A Ruck Player who takes possession of the Football while contesting a bounce or throw up by a Field Umpire or a boundary throw in by a Boundary
Umpire, will not be regarded as having had Prior Opportunity. Normal rules regarding tackling and disposal still apply. Where there is uncertainty over who is the designated Ruck, the Ruck
for each Team will continue to nominate to the field Umpire.
Clause 15.3.3 Changing a decision (formerly Clause 12.1.5 Goal Umpire to Judge Goal or Behind)
Due to the lack of qualified goal umpires and the wide variety of ability of “fill in” goal umpires, the USAFL chooses to retain the language of paragraph (b) which allows the Controlling Field Umpire the right to overrule a decision made by a non-accredited Goal Umpire.
Clause 15.5 Kicking for Goal post-siren – Centre of Goal Line
A Player who has been awarded a Mark or Free Kick once play has ended will now be able to Kick across their body using a Snap or Check-side Kick. The Player shall dispose of the Football directly in line with the man on The Mark and the Goal.
USAFL: The USAFL does NOT adopt this rule.
Clause 16 Procedure After a Behind Has Been Scored – Clause 16.1 Bringing the Football back into Play and Clause 16.2 Protected Area (Replaces Rule 13 Kicking
the Football into Play after a Behind Has Been Scored)
Clarification of this rule as adopted in 2019:
The USAFL will continue to require the Defending Team to wait for the flags to be waved.
Following a Behind, the man on The Mark will be positioned 10 (5*) yards from the top of the Goal Square. The Protected Area will be the Goal Square extended out to the Mark (at 10 or 5
yards as noted above) and extended to the Behind Posts (7 yards). Formerly the Protected Area extended five (5) yards in all three directions.
For Kick-Ins from a Behind, a Player will no longer need to kick to themselves to Play On out of the Goal Square. The player may kick the ball into play or run out of the Goal Square but may
not handball from the Goal Square (unless the Field umpire has called Play On).
USAFL: * The USAFL adopts this rule. However, for smaller fields such as for Metro games the distance may still be set at five (5) yards.
Example – Clause 15.7.1(b) in the 2018 Laws is no longer applicable after the Play On call, meaning if after leaving the Goal Square and the Umpire calls Play On, the Player kicks out of bounds with the ball hitting in the playing surface first (and no other players), it is NOT ‘On The Full’ but will be a Throw In at that spot, unless the Deliberate Out of Bounds rule has been
violated (Clause 17.9.2(b).
Example – Should a Player still within the Goal Square, before the Umpire calls Play On, kick out of bounds with the ball hitting in the playing surface first (and no other players), it is NOT ‘On The Full’ but will be a Throw In at that spot, unless the Deliberate Out of Bounds rule has been violated (Clause 17.9.2(b).
Clause 17.4.2 Ruck Contests – Number of Rucks (informally referred to as Third Person Up in the Ruck)
The USAFLUA reminds players that the USAFL has not adopted the “third person up” rule for ruck contests other than Centre Bounces. However, all normal ruck infringements will continue
to be penalized as detailed in Clause 17.4.3 Free Kicks - Ruck Contests (excepting item (a) regarding a non-nominated ruck contestant).
Clause 17.5 Free Kick - Marking Contest
The USAFL adopted this change in 2019: ‘Hands in the Back’ rule interpretation to be repealed, allowing a Player to place his hands on the back of his opponent to protect his position in a
Marking contest but not to push the Player in the back. Note: this “change” means the AFL now has the same interpretation as the USAFL has been enforcing this Law (meaning no change in how USAFL umpires administer the Law).
Clause 17.8.2 Free Kicks - Umpires
The USAFL adopted this change in 2019: Per Section (e) a Free Kick is awarded against a Player or Official who “intentionally or carelessly engages in conduct which affects, interferes with, or prevents an Umpire form performing their duties”. Players will be prohibited from setting up behind the Umpire at each Centre Bounce and each Ball Up.
Clause 17.10 Deliberate Rushed Behinds (formerly Clause 15.8 Free Kicks – Deliberate Rushed Behind)
The USAFL will not adopt the ruling to award a free kick to the attacking team when a defending opponent deliberately knocks the ball over the goal line.
Clause 18 50-Meter Penalty
Stricter on the infringing player, allowing the Player with the ball to advance The Mark by 50 meters without the infringing player delaying the game.
In addition, the Player with the Football will be able to play on during the advancement of the 50-Meter Penalty.
USAFL: The USAFL does NOT adopt this rule.
Clause 18.5 50-Meter Penalty – Local Conditions (formerly Clause 18.3 50-Meter Penalty – Local Conditions)
This law allows a change to 25 meters for the distance assessed for this penalty. The USAFL has adopted this for all USAFL intrastate games. Certain games at nationals (usually Division1) will use a 50-meter assessment. In addition, with the growth of Metro footy in many clubs, the USAFL recommends the penalty be reduced to 15 meters when matches are played on soccer
fields (or with 10 or fewer players per side).
Clause 19.1.1 Standing the Mark and Clause 19.1.2 Protected Area (formerlyClause 16 Disposal from Mark or Free Kick)
All players in the Protected Area (the area ten (10) yards from either side of the mark to the kicker and five (5) yards behind the kicker) after a free kick will be given a chance to immediately clear the Area. A player not clearing the Area and then impacting the opportunity of the kicker to play on or kick shall be penalized with a 50-meter penalty. A player not clearing the Area who does not impact the kicker shall not be penalized.
Clause Section 19.4 Disposal by a Defending Player – Within Nine Meters
The USAFL adopted this 2019 change: For all Defenders who take a Mark or gain a Free Kick within the 9 meter line of their own Goal Line, the man on The Mark for the attacking team will
be brought in line with the top of the Goal Square. This can occur before Goal, Before the Behind Area, or in the Pockets outside the Behind Posts – in all cases, the top of the goal square
(which is nine meters) is “extended” out to the Boundary Line if necessary.
Clause 20.2 The Advantage Rule (formerly Clause 17.3 The Advantage Rule)
Due to the difficulty of education of players and umpires regarding how to apply the advantage rule, the USAFL will continue its policy that the field umpire has sole discretion to award advantage (this is different from the AFL where the player’s choice to play on to advantage is part of the application of the law. See support video from the AFL for clarity).
Clause 22.2(d) Abusive Language
The USAFL adopted this change in 2019: The USAFLUA reminds clubs that abusive language towards umpires will not be tolerated. A player using abusive language towards an umpire will  be disciplined. Umpires also have the right to discipline abusive language towards an opponent, teammate, coach, spectator, or any other person(s) before, during, and after a match.
Clause 22.4 Order Off Law – Replacing Player and Clause 22.5 Order Off for Specified Period (formerly Clause 20 Order Off Law)
Yellow Card - a player receiving a Yellow Card is sent off for 15 minutes of game time and can be replaced on the field.
Red Card - a player receiving a Red Card is sent off for the remainder of that game and cannot return to the field of play. The player may be replaced on the field, but only after 15 minutes of
game time. In addition, the player will also be subjected to an automatic USAFL tribunal appearance.
Note: Every Yellow Card and Red Card issued carries a 50-Meter Penalty against the offending team.

AFL Rules - Laws of The Game 2014 Video

The AFL has put together a 23-minute video to illustrate the application of the 2014 Laws of Australian Rules Football. This is required viewing for all USAFL Board Members, Representative team personnel and players, club presidents, and should be encouraged viewing for all USAFL registered players. Below are some comments to the video that relate specifically to assist with USAFL umpires and with USAFL interpretations.






Forceful Contact Below the Knees

  • Players must use a “duty of care”
  • Sliding into a contest making forceful contact below the knees, as well as any reckless conduct (in which contact was likely to cause injury had contact occurred) is to be penalized
  • Exceptions: attempt to smother; attempting to mark; pushed, bumped, or tackled to the ground; already on the ground and reaching out for the ball


Drawing Head Contact

  • A player is in possession and drives his head into an opponent shall be deemed to have had prior opportunity and will be required to dispose of the ball if legally tackled
  • Ducking: when a player ducks into the tackle, causing contact, the umpire will call play on
  • The tackling player still has a duty to try to avoid high contact


Protected Area

  • The strict interpretation of “hands in the air” is removed
  • A player not in the marking contest must be penalized if delaying the player who marked the ball. This is umpire discretion
  • Note: A player leaving the protected area is not to be penalized, unless interfering with the play.


Marking Contest Free Kicks

  • The word “unduly” has been included to rule 15.4.5(d) and applies to an action or actions that are deemed unreasonable and excessive in a marking contest that prevents a player from contesting the ball
  • Examples are a illegal push, bump, block, or hold of an opponent
  • Players are allowed to maintain their ground legally (i.e. no hands in the back)


Other Free Kicks

  • No Changes in the following interpretations:
  • 50M penalties
  • Holding The Ball
  • Ruck Contests
  • Advantage
  • Deliberate Rushed Behinds
  • Protection of the Ball Player
  • Holding at Stoppages
  • Deliberate Out of Bounds
  • Zero Tolerance to Abuse
  • Marking Contests (other free kicks)


50m Penalties

  • 50M penalties will be paid for:
  • Cribbing the mark (interfering)
  • Delay the play
  • Uses abusive language or behavior towards an umpire
  • Other conduct for which a free kick would be awarded


Holding The Ball

  • Prior Opportunity
  • Player in possession of the ball has had prior opportunity to dispose legally
  • Is tackled legally
  • Must immediately handball or kick the ball (legally)
  • Diving on the Ball
  • When a player drags the ball to or under his body
  • Is legally tackled
  • Must successfully knock the ball clear
  • No Prior Opportunity – Genuine Attempt
  • A player gains possession of the ball, but has had no prior opportunity to dispose
  • Shall be given reasonable opportunity to attempt a correct disposal of the football
  • The attempt does not have to be successful, but must be a genuine attempt in the discretion of the umpire
  • Illegal Disposal
  • A player who has possession and drops, places, or throws the ball to the ground without making a genuine attempt to handball or kick, will be penalized



  • The ruckmen will be separated by 1 meter prior to the ball leaving the umpires hands
  • The umpire will instruct the ruckmen to separate by 1 meter if this is not the case. Failure to follow umpire instruction may result in a 50m penalty
  • Third man in is allowed, other than center bounce, as long as no other rules are broken (no push, bump, block or hold is allowed)



  • The advantage play in the USAFL will be the sole discretion of the field umpire.
  • Umpire may reverse advantage when it is obvious that player does not know rule or does not take advantage.
  • In international games, it is assumed the home team rules will be applied. Visiting team should inquire/be informed of any such variations to the rules prior to the start of the match


Deliberate Rushed Behinds

  • The USAFL has not adopted this rule; a behind is awarded even when it might be considered intentional under AFL rules.
  • In international games, it is assumed the home team rules will be applied. Visiting team should inquire/be informed of any such variations to the rules prior to the start of the match


Protection of the Ball Player

  • Free kicks will be awarded against any player who lies on an opponent’s back, sits on his head or shoulders, or makes high contact in any form


Holding at Stoppages

  • Holding an opponent during a stoppage will be penalized


Deliberate Out of Bounds

  • Players will be penalized for intentionally: knock the ball out of bounds, kick or handball the ball out of bounds, or force the ball out of play (including walking over the boundary line)
  • Ruck contest – the ruckman will be penalized for intentionally knocking the ball out of bounds, even when the ball does not go out on the full.


Zero Tolerance

  • No tolerance for players who verbally or demonstratively abuse umpires. Note: the intention of the player is the key - making personal the objection to the call (as opposed to simply getting on with the game)


Marking Contests

  • Player must make the ball their sole objective:
  • Front on push, no attempt to mark the ball
  • Bump/Tunnel/Shunt – never allowed
  • Blocking – the player makes no realistic attempt on the ball
  • Chopping the arm/s – never allowed
  • Hold – never allowed
  • Hands in the Back – USAFL umpires should look for two distinct movements (arm extension to push an opponent and marking the ball for example, would be two movements). This is a slightly less strict interpretation as opposed to the AFL interpretation
  • (for clarity as this is slightly different from hands in the back) Unrealistic attempt – player must make contact with the ball for the attempt to be considered realistic. This especially applies to ‘in the back’ and ‘high contact’
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