What is the red zone in rugby (or American football) and how did it get the name red zone? I couldn't see anything mentioned about this in the Wikipedia page for both games.

  • Are you asking one question or three...for one sport or two?
    – user527
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 3:13
  • @edmastermind29, Since all of them are related, I thought of posting as single answer. I have checked meta before posting this and saw this question Is it okay to ask multiple questions of the same topic in a single question?. So I thought it is okay to ask it this way. If you feel that it should be separate questions, I can post different questions for each of them. I was thinking that both sports are almost similar in nature so thought the answer will be the same.
    – iDev
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 4:18
  • 2
    Rugby does not use the terminology 'red zone'. Some commentators sometimes use that term in Rugby League but it is not in common usage. Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 9:28
  • Understood. You make valid points. Just making sure your question is focused well.
    – user527
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 10:57
  • @Bogdanovist agreed, I have never heard "the red zone" used in rugby, the common term is "the 22", or something similar to that, referring to the zone between the try line and the 22-yard line. Essentially it's the same thing but the term used is different between american football and rugby.
    – posdef
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 11:21

4 Answers 4


It is my understanding that the term has military origins. A red zone in military terms is the danger zone, generally close to the enemy (red having been a symbol for danger for a long time). The term is analogous to sport as the last 20/22 is where you are more likely to suffer the danger of conceding to the opponent.

I see that Merriam Webster has the first usage in sport at 1983 but the military/danger use predates that somewhat. Indeed, there is the 1966 film, "Red Zone Cuba", which is centered around a military facility.

During World War I, the decimated areas of France were known as the Red Zone.

To sum up my answer, the term "Red Zone" has been used in various contexts as a term for danger. Its application in sport is to represent the danger of your enemy and it was first coined by ex-Redskins coach Joe Gibbs in 1982.

The term "red zone" was coined by then Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs in a 1982 interview with the Washington Post. Gibbs used the term to describe the heightened sense of urgency on both sides of the ball when the offense gets close to scoring. He called efficiency in the red zone an important part of that team's success.


From Wikipedia (as linked by Orangecrush)

The area is not literally colored red and the term is used mainly for statistical purposes

As far as I can tell, the etymology is that they needed a name, and "red zone" sounded cool. Nothing particularly special or notable.


Wiki defines red zone as,

The area between each goal line and their respective 20 metre lines, that is, their own quarter, may be referred to as the "red zone".

You can read other terminologies of rugby and american football here and here.

  • 1
    Thanks. But how did that name came?
    – iDev
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 6:45

From here, and the description of the zone, red zone(s) are the vital area for scoring a touchdown (from most rushes and passes), and it also the nice range for the field goal kick, too. Danger can be detected by the defense, so it seems legit to name that area the "Red Zone".

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