Rule Differences for American Players

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Rule Differences for American Players

Postby Chilli Tue Oct 21, 2008 2:41 pm

In the last few seasons it is noticeable that many more American players are being 'found' by Clubs and are making a significant contribution to the growth and overall improvement of the standard of play in the South.
Not surprisingly, most of them don't realise that the rules that they play to in the USA are not the same worldwide and this can lead to confusion and misunderstanding.
Most Clubs are not aware of the American rules to be able to explain which are different here.
The attached document was created by Graham Lester, the most senior referee in the UK, for the coaches employed by Clubs as LDOs.
It is very useful and will go a long way to making the transition to playing in the UK easier for visitors.
Please pass on to any such players in your Club



Whilst you are in England, you will be coaching and playing, at different times, under the English Rules and the International Rules.
These differ from American Rules in several important respects.
The purpose of this document is to highlight those differences so that you will be prepared for what is to come and so that you will encounter fewer problems during your stay.

This document does not claim to be authoritative in terms of the Rules of Lacrosse.
It attempts merely to point out the major differences in the Rules.
The ELA Rule Book and the ILF Rule Book need to be carefully read in conjunction with what is said herein.
You need to cover the current publications of the Rule Books:
Go to
Go to About the Sport
Go to Rules of the Game
Go to National Rules Handbook or ILF International Rules.

The English Rules are played in club games.
The International Rules are played in other situations, such as representative or “All Star” games.
The English Rules and the International Rules are the same as each other, EXCEPT as specified in the sections below.


International Rules specify 23-a-side but this can be varied by agreement.
English Rules:
North of England plays 13-a-side but a club’s lowest team is unlimited.
South of England is unlimited in all Divisions.
Junior games by agreement.


20-minute quarters are played with a running clock, except that all clocks stop on any dead ball, including a goal, during the last 3 minutes of the game.
A tied game results in two 4-minute overtime periods which are played in full regardless of goals.
A draw after the two extra time periods results in sudden death, which is played in 4-minute periods.
All clocks stop on any dead ball, including a goal, during the overtime periods.

English Rules: It gets pretty dark not long after 3.30 in the middle of an English winter, so League games end after 80 minutes if drawn: one point each.
Knock-out games go into overtime if the light allows, otherwise they are replayed the following week.

Junior games are 15-minute quarters.


The minimum width of the head of the stick is 4 inches: box sticks are thus allowed.
A short stick is between 40 and 42 inches long.
A long stick is between 52 and 72 inches long.
Only 4 long sticks are allowed on the field of play, excluding the penalty box and the bench.

The Rules say that a player may only exchange his stick if it becomes broken.
But, in practice, a player may exchange his stick when he is in the bench area or the special substitution area.


Play tends to go on longer under International Rules when the flag is down.

The slow whistle play ENDS when a team has had the ball twice behind.
If the flag is thrown when the ball is behind the goal, then this counts as the team’s first time behind.
The slow whistle play ends automatically when a team brings the ball out of the attack goal area.
The slow whistle play does NOT end automatically when the ball touches the ground.
A bounce-pass or a rolled pass is thus allowed whilst the flag is down.


This is used when an opponent is sent off and the re-start would be in the offended team’s half.
It applies for both technical fouls and personal fouls.
The ball is moved to the nearest point of the centre-line: not to the centre X.
There is no free-clear for simultaneous fouls.


A team time-out lasts 90 seconds.

International Rules: There are 2 per team per half and 1 per first two overtime periods.
None in sudden death overtime periods.

English Rules: There is 1 per team per half and 1 per first two overtime periods.
None in sudden death overtime periods.

A time-out can be called by any coach, a captain or the man in possession of the ball.
The request may be made to a Referee or to the Chief Bench Official.
When a coach needs a time-out, the CBO is usually the best official to ask.

A time-out may be called when the ball is dead or when the team has possession IN ITS ATTACKING HALF of the field.

A request for a time-out which proves to be illegal, for whatever reason, is a technical foul.


In all cases, apart from the Nominated Defender rule, see Section 21, below, a player must serve his own penalty time.
Penalty time starts when he sits down in the penalty box or when the whistle re-starts play, whichever is the LATER.
The game can thus re-start before the player’s penalty starts.
If the penalised player is going back onto the field, then he may spend the last five seconds on one knee on HIS OWN SIDE OF THE GATE.
If a substitute is going on for him, then the penalised player should stay on the seat for the full penalty time and the sub should spend the last five seconds on one knee on HIS OWN SIDE OF THE GATE.

Penalties for technical fouls are released by the scoring of a goal AGAINST the player’s team.
There is NO RELEASE on personal fouls: they are ALWAYS served in full.

It is legal for a player to voluntarily delay his re-entry to the field of play after he has served his penalty time.
(It is also legal for a substitute to delay his entry to the field of play.)
There is thus NO requirement for a team to have 10 men on the field of play in the ILF or the ELA Rules.

If a team has 4 men or more on penalty, then they all serve.
The team must keep 3 men in the attack half and the rest in the defence half.


If the player’s team has left the nearside wing area open, then the player may return to the field on the word “Release”, regardless of whether or not the ball has been set or the whistle has blown for the face-off.
If the nearside wing area if filled and the whistle has not yet blown for the face-off, then the player may go onto the field but he must be in a legal area by the time the whistle blows to start the play.
He may decide to wait for “Possession” or “Free Ball” before he goes on, to avoid the risk of being caught in “no-man’s land”.
If the nearside wing area is filled and the player’s penalty time ends after the whistle has blown for the face-off, then the player may not go onto the field until “Possession” or “Free Ball”.


In the event of an extra man situation at the conclusion of ANY period, including any overtime periods, then the next period is commenced by awarding the ball to the team which had possession at the conclusion of the prior period in the same relative position on the field.
This applies if the ball is in flight between team-mates as the period ends, regardless of whether the pass is caught or not after the whistle blows to end the period.


At a free play, both opponents and team-mates of the player awarded the ball must be 5 yards away from him.


Players may only enter and leave the field of play through the Gate and there must not be more than 10 men on the field of play EXCEPT after a goal, during a time-out of any kind or at the end of a period.
Thus, IF THE CLOCK IS RUNNING, a player must go through the Gate and he must wait for the man he is replacing to leave the field of play, EVEN IF THE BALL IS DEAD.


A coach may only enter the field of play DURING A TEAM TIME-OUT OR AT THE END OF A PERIOD, unless a referee has asked him to attend to an injured player.
It is thus a foul for a coach to enter the field of play during a Referees’ time-out or after a goal is scored.
Only 4 coaches are allowed in the Coaches’ area.


A coach may be a player/coach. Such must be nominated to the referees prior to the start of the game.


In the International Rules, if the clock stops to treat an injured player, then that player must leave the field of play until the next dead ball, unless his team uses a time-out.
His does NOT apply in the English Rules, as teams sometimes have to play with only ten men.


If a player is bleeding or has blood on his person or equipment, then he will be asked to leave the field to rectify matters. He may return to the game as soon as this is done.


The goalie must wear a throat-guard, a chest pad and a box/cup/protector.


Once a goalie who is in his crease has covered the ball in an attempt to pick it up, then:
If the ball is outside the crease, then he can be checked in the normal way.
The count does not start.
If the ball is within the crease, including the line, then the goalie is deemed to be in possession, despite the ball being under his crosse!
The count starts and any interference would result in a free clear and A 30-SECOND PENALTY for his opponent.
Once the goalie has “normal” possession of the ball with any part of his body touching the crease, then it is best to let him clear it, so as to avoid the risk of a TIME-SERVED PENALTY for interference.
The count is audible and visible.

If a defender – NOT the goalie – who is inside the crease is either covering the ball or has possession of the ball, then he can be checked in the usual way.


If the goalie has chased, for example, a wide shot, but has “lost the chase”, then he is NOT given any extra time by the referee to get back to the cage.
As soon as the attacker has the ball, the whistle will blow.


The dive play is legal.
The ball must cross the plane of the goal before any part of the attacker’s body, including either hand, touches the crease or the cage.
The attacker is not allowed to touch the goalie or the goalie’s stick before the ball crosses the plane of the goal.
The attacker’s stick may touch the cage.


Because English teams usually have only one goalkeeper, then, for safety’s sake, the English rules allow for a “Nominated Defender”.
Prior to the coin-toss, each team will nominate a starting Long Stick to serve any penalty time which the goalkeeper would have served, unless the foul by the goalkeeper is “violent or abusive”, in which case the goalkeeper would serve the time himself.

This is NOT part of the International Rules but, for safety’s sake, it is often played by convention.
If one team is allowed this privilege, then, in the interest of fairness, it is extended to both teams.


There is NO Alternate Possession Rule.
Thus an out-of-bounds ball where the Referees do not know who touched it last would result in a face-off.
This must be at least 20 feet from a boundary and at least 20 yards from a cage.
All other players must be at least 10 yards away.


When a member of a team commits a foul, and then a member of the opposing team commits a foul, then the fouls are simultaneous fouls, provided that the fouls are not separated by a whistle which has restarted play, or by the scoring of a goal.

When simultaneous fouls have been committed, the following rules apply:
i) All fouls being technical, the fouls cancel, and the team in possession at the time of the first foul retains possession where the ball was when the whistle sounded. If no team was in possession, the ball is faced where it was when the whistle sounded.

ii) If at least one of the fouls is a personal foul, then penalty time shall be served for all the fouls, and the following rules shall apply:
If one team incurs more total penalty time than the other, then the team with the lesser total penalty time shall be awarded the ball.
If the total penalty times are equal, then the team in possession of the ball at the time of the first foul shall retain possession of it.
If the total penalty times are equal, and neither team had possession of the ball, then the ball shall be faced where it was when the whistle blew.

iii) For the purpose of totalling penalty time in the case of simultaneous fouls, an expulsion foul counts as a 3-minute penalty.

iv) There is no free clear after simultaneous fouls.


An opponent may be body-checked or stick-checked if he has possession of the ball or is within THREE YARDS of a loose ball or a ball in flight.
Whilst the two players who are participating in the face-off are still down in the face-off position, and the ball is still between and in contact with their sticks, it is illegal for any other player to make contact with the body or crosse of either of those two players.


A player may push an opponent with either closed gloved hand on the handle of his crosse or with either forearm, provided that the opponent has possession of the ball, or the opponent is within 9 feet (2.74 metres) of a loose ball, or the ball is in flight within 9 feet (2.74 metres) of the opponent.
Both hands of the player who is doing the pushing must be on his crosse.
The pushing must not be from the rear, it must not be below the hip and it must not be at or above the neck unless the pushed player turns his back or jumps or moves in such a manner as to make what started as a legal push appear illegal.
Pushing an opponent who is lying on the ground, or who is down on one or both knees, is illegal.
Unnecessary roughness must not be used during a push.


There is NO 10-second clear Rule.
A team cannot be called for stalling if it is a man down due to penalties.
A team can only be called for stalling if it has been warned to “GET IT IN” or to “KEEP IT IN” during that play and the team then carries or passes the ball outside the stalling box.
The WHOLE of the attack goal area is the stalling box in these circumstances.
There is NO automatic stalling Rule towards the end of the game.


A team must be ready to play 30 seconds after the Lead Referee retrieves the ball after a goal.
An individual player is guilty of delaying the game if, during a stoppage in play, he bats, kicks or throws the ball away.
In such a case, if a time penalty is to be served, then the individual concerned must serve it himself.
At the discretion of the referees, such conduct may be construed as unsportsmanlike conduct.


This is legal.


The Referee will get the centres down and say “Set”.
Once the face-off players have been “Set”, then they may not move their gloves or sticks.
Other movement, for example of the feet, is permitted.


To pick legally, a player must be stationary and motionless and he must be in his normal stance.


There are no random stick checks.
A stick-check may be called by a team’s HEAD coach when the ball is dead.
If the stick is declared legal, then the coach suffers no penalty the first time.
Subsequent “wrong” calls for a stick-check result in a technical foul on the coach.

A stick-count may be called by a team’s HEAD coach at any time.
The request is made to the Chief Bench Official.
If the number of long sticks on the field is declared legal, then the coach suffers no penalty the first time.
Subsequent “wrong” calls for a stick-count result in a technical foul on the coach.


If a stick is found to be illegal, other than trick construction or stringing, then it is a technical foul.


This is likely to lead to a penalty for Unsportsmanlike Conduct or, as it is still called in the English Rules, UNGENTLEMANLY CONDUCT!
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Postby 6x6 Tue Dec 23, 2008 5:49 pm


Just stumbled on your post, very interesting and informative. Father and former coach of a player (he's still playing but I'm not coaching) here in the states, with strong ties to Wales.

We try to follow the game internationally and your post certainly helps in understanding how the game varies according to location. We've been over many times but have yet to catch a game. Perhaps in '09!

"It's 106 miles to Chicago, we have a full tank of gas, a 1/2 pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses."

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