Football Double Foul Penalty

Football Double Foul Penalty

In football, a double foul occurs when both teams have committed a penalty on the same play. When two teams commit a foul on the same down, there are a few different ways that the situation can be handled. In most cases, the penalties become offsetting penalties and effectively cancel each other out. However, if the penalties are of different magnitude or occur before or after a change of possession, then there may be consequences for one or both teams.


The double foul penalty has a range of definitions and uses. These situations include no change of possession, offsetting penalties, 15 versus 5, change of possession, before change of possession, and after change of possession.

If the double foul is committed when there is no change of possession, then in most scenarios the penalties will offset. However, there are a few exceptions outside of the offsetting penalties scenario:

When two teams commit penalties that offset and are not involved in an exception regarding change of possession, then the double foul is disregarded, and no penalty is enforced.

If both teams commit a penalty but of different magnitude (i.e. 15-yard penalty versus a 5-yard penalty), the larger of the two penalties is enforced from the spot of the dead ball. This is almost always a "15 versus 5" situation, which results in the enforcement of the 15 yard penalty.

If both of the fouls committed result in disqualifications for both teams, then the down is replayed from the same spot. Assuming they are offsetting, there is no moving of the line of scrimmage as a result of this call.

In a double foul scenario in which there is a change of possession, or a "clean hands" situation, the team that wins possession keeps it and then is penalized, given it was after the change of possession. However, there are a few exceptions given some specifics.

If the double foul happens before a change of possession, or "not clean hands," then the penalties offset and the down is replayed. In a kicking scenario pre-change of possession, if the kicking team fouls, then the receiving team would have the option to replay the down (offsetting penalties) or keep the ball after the foul is enforced.

If a team now in possession earns a double foul for their benefit, the ball is spotted at the spot of the foul, unless it is further than where the play was called dead. If this were a touchback, the ball is placed on the 20-yard line. If it were to be a safety, the ball is placed at the 1-yard line. All these enforcements still apply if one of the fouls occurs post-possession.


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Double fouls are treated the same across all leagues, and only differ in terms of the differences between the individual fouls that may be involved in the double foul. The end result of a double foul could be anywhere from 0 to 15 yards, or even more if spotted at the spot of the leading major foul.

Penalty Signal

football penalty signal double foul

In the event of a double foul in which both penalties offset and neither is enforced, the referee moves his arms from an arms-crossed position to an arms-out wide T-shaped form. This is only if the penalties have canceled each other out. If one penalty is enforced over the other, the referee will then make the corresponding hand signal for that penalty.


  • Team A commits defensive pass interference and Team B (on offense) commits a 5-yard illegal contact penalty, then the defensive pass interference is enforced.
  • If both teams commit a holding penalty, then the penalties offset and the down is replayed.
  • If the team on offense throws an interception, and there is a double foul in favor of the defense, then the defensive team wins possession and plays from where the penalty yardage is enforced, up to the point of where the interception was run to.