Touch is a variation of rugby league with the tackling of opposing players replaced by a touch. As touches must be made with minimal force, touch is therefore a limited-contact sport. The basic rules of touch were established in the 1960s by the South Sydney Junior Rugby League Club.
Distinctive features of touch football include the ease of learning it, minimal equipment requirements and the ability to play it without fear of major injury. While it is generally played with two teams of six on-field players, some social competitions allow different number of players per team on the field. It is played by both sexes, and in age divisions from primary school children to over-50s. The mixed version of the game (where both male and female players are on the field at the same time) is particularly popular with social players.
While it is often claimed[who?] that Touch started in Australia in 1963 as a social or "park" game and as a training technique for rugby league, at least as early as 1956, supervised Touch and Pass was already being played at several inner city schools in the North of England, where asphalt playgrounds made normal rugby league too dangerous. Although the rules were set out by the schools' sports teachers, it was not then viewed as a sport in its own right. It was formalised into a sport proper by the "Founders of Touch", Bob Dyke and Ray Vawdon of the South Sydney Junior Rugby League Club. On 13 July 1968 the "South Sydney Touch Football Club" was formed and the sport of Touch Football was born. The first actual official game of Touch was played in late 1968 and the first official competition, organised by Dyke & Vawdon, was held at Rowland Park Sydney in 1968. From these humble beginnings the game quickly became a fully regulated and codified sport. It was first played in Brisbane in 1972 and by 1973 there were representative games. It had spread to New Zealand by 1975.
Rules and Equipment
The current rules are the 8th Edition published by Touch Football Australia in 2020. The rules include a section of touch-specific terms and phrases, many of which are shared with rugby league (e.g. offside, intercept).
Touch balls are oval and slightly smaller than rugby league balls. The official size is 36 cm long and 55 cm in circumference, also sometimes known as rugby size 4.
Players typically wear light clothing such as singlets, T-shirts or polo shirts and shorts. All shirts must be numbered. Women generally wear lycra bike shorts, athletic briefs or swimsuit-style lycra bodysuits.
Players normally wear soft rubber cleated shoes, similar to those used in other grass sports such as cricket and field hockey. Screw-in cleats are strictly prohibited, though moulded-sole football boots may be worn.
Touch must have at least one referee to manage the game but most major games feature one central referee and two sideline referees, who interchange roles repeatedly throughout the game.
Teams are generally split into three positions: two "wings" (the players on either edge of the field i.e. 'right wing' and 'left wing'); two "middles" (the central players); and two "links" (the players between the wings and middles, one on each side of the field i.e. 'right link' and 'left link').
A team normally retains possession for a set of six consecutive touches as in rugby league. Possession (or a Turnover) transfers to the opposing team:
A try is awarded when an attacking player, who is not the acting-half places the ball on or over the opposition's try line. Each try is worth one point.
The Half (or Acting-Half) is subject to a number of restrictions that do not apply to other players:
- If the Half is touched with the ball, the attacking team loses possession.
- The Half cannot score a try. Attempting to do so (even grounding the ball not purposefully) results in a change of possession.
- If the Half takes too long to retrieve the ball the referee can call play on and defenders are allowed to move forward before the Half has touched the ball.
These restrictions do not apply to a Half who passes the ball to a teammate (or indeed opposition player) and then receives it back.
- Interchanges can be made any number of times throughout the match. However, the game remains continuous and does not stop to allow interchanges.
- Players coming onto the field must wait until the player they are interchanging with has come off the field. Failing to do so may result in a penalty for an incorrect interchange.
- Players in a team who are not on the field must remain inside their allocated interchange area (sometimes called substitution box) until they come onto the field.
Composition of teams
- The teams can be male, female or mixed.
- Each team can consist of up to 14 players, of which 6 players can be on the field at any one time.
- Mixed teams typically comprise 3 females and 3 males on the field at one time. The rules state that there must be at least 1 male, at least 1 female, and no more than 3 males on the field at any time.
Mode of play
The ball can be passed or knocked (but not kicked) sideways or backwards between teammates who attempt to evade opposition defenders and score tries.
The standard duration is 40 minutes (two x 20-minute halves) with a 5-minute halftime, though other time frames are often used to suit local conditions and competitions.
World Rugby, world governing body of the rules of Rugby Union, published in November 2010 a draft of leisure rules of Touch Rugby IRB for developmental purposes. Those Laws were adapted from the FIT playing rules for the sport of Touch.
The document states: "Council agreed that these Leisure Rugby Laws are issued as a guide for developmental purposes and Unions are not bound to apply the Laws" and "IRB Leisure Rugby Laws have been designed so that Unions may develop non-Contact Rugby. These Laws have been produced so that there are some guidelines and principles in place for IRB Leisure Rugby. Unions having jurisdiction over their developmental processes, matches, competitions and festivals may need to vary these Laws as deemed appropriate. This allows domestic Rugby clubs to adapt to the FIT playing rules, provided domestic Touch Associations are in agreeance."
The inaugural Touch World Cup was held on the Gold Coast, Australia in 1988. Since then, the event has been hosted in Auckland (New Zealand)(1991), Waikiki Beach (Hawaii)(1995), Sydney (Australia)(1999), Kamagaya (Japan)(2003), Stellenbosch (South Africa) (2007), Edinburgh (Scotland) (2011), Coffs Harbour (Australia) (2015) and Putrajaya (Malaysia) (2019) .
- Open (Unrestricted)
- Youth (Under 21)
- Senior (Over 30)
Touch is a very popular sport at the various Masters Games events.
World All Schools
The World All Schools event attracts hundreds of teams from schools around the world. It is held every 2 years. In 2006 the event was held in Singapore, prior to that it was held in Brisbane. The 2008 event (held in Brisbane after the event was cancelled in New Zealand) was by far the largest, hosting over 250 teams.
Touch is played in every Australian state and territory, and is particularly popular in the rugby league and rugby union strongholds of Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT. There are currently over 700,000 registered Touch players, 500,000 school children, and up to 100,000 casual players playing the sport. The peak governing body is Touch Football Australia.
Australia's main domestic competition is the National Touch League (NTL) and Elite 8 Series. Thirteen permits, representing all parts of Australia, compete in open-age, under-20 and over-age (Masters) divisions in men's, women's and mixed categories. The permits have been designed to equalise competition between the traditionally strong Touch states of ACT, Queensland and NSW and the remainder of the country.
School Sport Australia runs the National Championship Tournament and Exchange for Touch every year – the location moves from state to state. Most Australian States and Territories enter Boys and Girls teams in both the High School (15 and under) and Primary School (12 and under) divisions.
Touch Football Australia (TFA) and the National Rugby League (NRL) signed a memorandum of understanding in August 2013, bringing together the two entities under a partnership agreement to develop the sport across both codes. The agreement recognises the similarities between both Touch and Rugby league and that there are significant benefits to both through a dual-track pathway. The agreement resulted in the creation of a unified "NRL Touch Football" brand in Australia, which has since resulted in a major profile and funding boost for the sport within the country, including the signing of a commercial partnership agreement between the two entities and the principle "whole of game sponsor", Harvey Norman.
In May 2018, under the NRL Touch Football partnership, the organisation launched the NRL Touch Premiership, to be played alongside NRL matches by teams drawn from the Elite 8 Series and aligned to NRL clubs.
The Touch Austria Association became an associate member of F.I.T (Federation International Touch) in October 2009 with 3 official member clubs (Touch Rugby Vienna, ACC Touch, Touch Voralberg). 2009 saw the establishment of the Austrian Touch League (ATL) plus the first ever national Touch teams (Mixed and Men's) that competed in the 2009 Mainland Cup. Touch Austria also sends teams to contest regular events in other tournaments in Europe.
Touch has been played in Chile since 1998 by initiative of foreign residents in the country, where Chilean players and teams were added, giving way to the creation of the official body Touch Rugby Chile. Currently in Chile, touch is played in different cities: Santiago: Santiago Touch Rugby league, which brings together 16 teams and played in mixed category. Senior Touch league: which brings together 7 teams, it is played only by men over 40 years, once a month. The league adopted the official Touch rules in 2016, being supported by referees who belong to the Federation of Chile Touch. Schools: It is practiced in several schools where rugby is played. Touch is also developing in regions outside of Santiago like Rancagua and Paine. Chile participates in the following international tournaments: Torneo Trasandino: This tournament has been held since 2014 in the cities of Cordoba, Mendoza and Santiago (three tournaments a year), with the participation of teams from the cities mentioned, plus Rancagua and Paine. USA Touch Nationals & International Club Open. This league is held annually in the United States, with the participation of several states of that nation plus other countries like Chile, which is attending since 2012. Touch World Cup. The last edition was 2015 in Australia. Chile participated for the first time, achieving an outstanding participation: Bronze group winners and ranked No. 13 of the FIT Open Mixed Division.
An England Touch Association was formed in 1995 and had over 65 member clubs and 1,000 individual members by the end of 2016.
Touch France is the national association in charge of the development of the Touch in France. The French Men's Over 30s is the first French team to win an international competition by winning the 2012 Euros in Treviso. In the very same category, France Men's Over 30s won a bronze medal in Putrajaya, Malaysia in the 9th Touch Football World Cup.
Touch is played in Germany since 2003 by round about 500 active players. In 2005 the official national governing body Touch Deutschland Sportverein (TDSV) was founded, which is a full member of the FIT and has sent teams to the European Cup and World Championships. Clubs now exist in Berlin, Bonn, Frankfurt, Freiburg, Gießen, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Cologne (Köln), Leipzig, Munich, Osnabrück, Paderborn and Rüthen. The German Championships are held every year since 2005. Record title holder is the club from Munich.
Touch Rugby Italia (TRI) is the official body recognised by FIT for the development of the Touch in Italy. Currently there are 14 teams affiliated to TRI. TRI send regularly national teams to International Events in Europe
Japan Touch Association (JTA) is the official body recognised by FIT for the development of the Touch in Japan. In 2016, there are 32 clubs recognized by JTA, while 55 teams played for Tokyo Touch tournament. Assuming the recognition rate is 40%, it is estimated 2000 active players in 110 clubs.
Touch Malaysia (TM) is the official body for the sport in Malaysia and the Malaysian member of the Federation International Touch (FIT) – the International Federation. A number of touch football teams can be found in Malaysia including the Penang Panthers. The Panthers were founded in 2011 by Christopher Woodhams, a Birmingham born philanthropist and educator. Matt Lee, a star player in Australia, helps run the club. Matt took the Asian Club Championships, held in KL in June 2013, by storm and dominated the opposition with his pace and shrewd passing abilities. The Panthers were the best placed Malaysian team at the Asian Club Championship and were the Men's Masters runners up.
Touch has been played in Scotland since 1991 in informal leagues in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The sport soon spread to Aberdeen with a well established league forming soon afterwards.
In 2005, the Scottish Touch Association (STA) was formally constituted as the governing body to help develop the sport. By 2007 the association had welcomed new participants from Dundee, Perth and Stirling to join existing leagues, held its first formal national championships, trained over 150 referees and won the tender to host the 2011 World Cup in Edinburgh.
Touch Singapore (TSG) is the governing body recognised by FIT for Touch Football. Established in 2017, Touch Singapore hosts two league competitions every year with over 95 teams entering across 12 category divisions. Singapore has won bronze at two Touch World Cups in 2011 & 2015 in the Women's Open category. There are over 5,000 players playing competitively and socially in Singapore with 2,000 registered players in the league competitions. TSG also host the Singapore International Touch Knockout tournament which see clubs from all over Asia competing over a two-day competition.
Touch in South Africa is overseen by the [South African Touch Association, and is often known as 'Six Down'. South Africa has had national representation at all Touch World Cups since 1995. There are already over 6,000 registered players in South Africa.
Touch Switzerland (TS) is the official body recognised by FIT for the development of Touch in Switzerland. Switzerland has competed in all European Championships since 2006 and in the 2007 and 2011 World Cup. Switzerland sends teams to contest regular events in other tournaments in Europe. The biggest accomplishment so far is winning the Mainland Cup in Heidelberg in 2009 – coming third in the Women's Open and first in the Men's Open divisions. As of 2020, there are TS-affiliated clubs in Baden, Bagnes, Basel, Bern, Egg, Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, Zug and Zurich.
There are touch communities in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Orlando, FL, Portland, OR, Phoenix, AZ, Los Angeles, San Francisco, California, Washington, DC, New York City, Chicago, IL, Houston, TX, Dallas, TX, San Diego, California, West Palm Beach, FL, Boston, MA, and Sandy, UT. The current President of United States Federation of Touch is OJ Hawea.
Touch is played regularly in various parts of Thailand, mostly by expats, many of whom are teachers living in Thailand. Touch is particularly popular in Phuket and Bangkok, and is also popular with Thai locals who are gaining an interest in rugby yearly.
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- No Cookies | The Courier Mail
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