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Football Sideline Infraction Penalty

Football Sideline Infraction Penalty

The sideline infraction penalty is called in football when a coach or player enters the restricted area on the sideline. This restricted area is reserved for the officials and line crew only and runs the length of the field. The area behind the restricted area is for coaches and substitutional players.


This penalty is enforced to give the officials and chain crew a clear space during the game. Many times teams will have specific coaches who pull coaches back into their given area during a game to avoid this penalty. There have been instances where a coach has gotten in the way of the official or even a live play by being too close to the field.

The six-foot restricted area allows the officials to run the full length of the sideline in order to follow the play. Another six-foot area behind that is reserved for coaches and substitutional players. An 18-foot area behind that is where the rest of the players and coaches are. This area is also where the benches are. The last section on the sideline is for the media, which is separated from the bench area by six feet.

In 2010, New York Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi stuck his leg into the restricted area to trip a Miami Dolphins player during a punt. In 2013, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin stood in the restricted area potentially stopping a touchdown on a punt return by Baltimore Ravens returner Jacoby Jones. In 2016, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was penalized after making contact with an official and later disagreed with the call saying the rule needed to be changed. In 2020, TCU head coach Gary Patterson was penalized for sideline interference after tripping an official.


Sideline Infraction: First OffenseWarningWarningWarningWarningWarning
Second Offense5 Yards5 Yards5 Yards5 Yards5 Yards
Third Offense15 Yards15 Yards15 Yards15 Yards15 Yards
Fourth OffenseDisqualificationDisqualificationDisqualificationDisqualificationDisqualification

The result of a sideline infraction penalty varies. On the first offense, the sideline will receive a warning. On the second offense, a five-yard penalty is assessed. On the third offense, a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty is assessed. If the offense occurs a fourth time, a 15-yard penalty is assessed and if it's the second unsportsmanlike offense for the offender, they will be disqualified.

If contact is made with an official during this penalty, the first offense is automatically 15 yards and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The second offense is again 15 yards, and the offender will be disqualified if it's his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Penalty Signal

football penalty signal sideline interference

The referee signal for a sideline infraction penalty is crossing hands behind their lower back while facing the press box.


  • A coach stands in the referee restricted area and accidentally trips the official.
  • A player who will be substituted into the game stands in the restricted area without realizing.
  • An assistant coach stands too close to the field in order to get a better view.

Similar Penalties To Sideline Infraction