In football, an illegal shift penalty is called as a result of illegal movement prior to the snap. An illegal shift is often confused with illegal motion, but various things separate the two. An illegal shift penalty can only be called on the offense and results in a five yard loss for the offense.
When two or more offensive players are moving prior to the snap, it is considered a shift. When a singular player is moving before the snap it is called motion. The offense has to be in a legal formation before and after shifts.
Following a shift, all offensive players must set for at least one second. If all players, aside from a single player in motion, do not set for at least one second prior to the snap, then a penalty is called.
|Illegal Shift||5 Yards||5 Yards||5 Yards||Not a Foul||Not a Foul|
When an illegal shift is called, the result is a five yard loss for the offense. The ball is moved back five yards from the previous line of scrimmage. In the NFL, NCAA, and high school, the illegal shift penalty is worth five yards. However, in the CFL and AFL illegal shifting is not considered a penalty.
To signal an illegal shift, a referee puts both hands at chest level, angled towards each other. The referee then extends their arms out forward and returns them to the original positioning. The illegal shift looks very similar to an incomplete pass, but on an incomplete pass a referee tends to extend their arms more to the side.