French umpires guide (sort of)
There is no proper FIPJP umpire’s guide, in the sense of an official document containing case law for the FIPJP rules of petanque— an official list of precedents and rulings in cases where the written rules are unclear or unusable for some reason. There is however a web site that occasionally contains useful bits of that kind of information. I’m talking about the FFPJP (French national) Guide de l’Arbitrage (umpiring guide).
To find it, first go to the FFPJP “portal” page. In the menu at the top of the page, click on the “INFOS ARBITRAGE” heading, and then click on “Guide de l’Arbitrage”.
This will take you to the Guide de l’Arbitrage page. At the bottom of that page is a long list of what are basically memoranda by the French national umpires on various subjects. Most of these memoranda aren’t relevant to someone who is not a French player or a French umpire, but a few contain official decisions about how the rules are to be interpreted. In the picture below, for example, I’ve highlighted Annexe 24-1, which is a memo on the new FIPJP ruling about how to handle a boule thrown out-of-turn (la boule jouée par erreur).
The rightmost column is entitled à teléchargér (to download). To download a document, click on the link in that column. You will be able to download the selected document. It will be in PDF format and (of course) in French. If you don’t read French, I recommend using the DeepL automatic translator.
A new ruling on boules played out-of-turn
A boule played out-of-turn is a boule that was played when a team mistakenly believed that they did not have the point, and that it was their turn to play.
For a long time, there has been serious debate about what should be done when this happens. Some have argued that a boule played out-of-turn was played “contrary to the the rules” and that Article 24 therefore gave the opposing team the option to declare it to be dead. Others have argued that a boule played out-of-turn was NOT an infringement of the rules but simply a mistake; boules played out-of-turn should stay where they are and play should continue.
This debate has now been settled by a ruling by the FIPJP. It is now official— a boule played out-of-turn is simply a mistake; it should be left in place and play should continue.
I don’t know if this ruling can be found on the FIPJP web site, but it was posted on the FFPJP (French) Guide de l’Arbitrage on March 6, 2023. You can read our English translation HERE.
The … ball played by mistake will be valid until the end of the mène.
This ruling made its way to the “Ask the Umpire” Facebook forum on May 4, 2023. In two separate posts (HERE and HERE) Tony Kidd, Trudy Bishop, Allen Cassady, and Andries Wijand all asked roughly the same question:
If Team B gains the point, but does not measure and (thinking that they have not gained the point) plays a second boule, what is the penalty?
Mike Pegg’s answers (which I have combined and compressed for the sake of readability) were—
The penalty is that Team B has wasted one of its boules. No boules are removed, and play continues. Team B of course should have checked [to verify that they were not holding], but so should team A to be sure they are still holding. If neither team checks to see who is holding, they are both in the wrong. Team B’s second boule remains valid, and they are at a disadvantage having played a boule they didn’t need to play.
It is nice to have this old thorn in the side finally pulled.
Playing penalties and conduct penalties
I’ve noticed that on his Ask the Umpire Facebook forum Mike Pegg has started using two new terms— or at least terms that I’ve never noticed before— “playing penalty” and “conduct penalty”. I don’t know the origin of these terms, but I think that they are useful. Basically, the new terms highlight an important distinction in faults and penalties, and the terms make it easier to describe and talk about them.
The basic idea is that there are two kinds or categories of “faults” (ways to break the rules) and correspondingly there are two kinds of penalties— playing penalties for playing faults, and conduct penalties for conduct faults.
The first appearance of these terms that I noticed was on February 16, 2023, in a response to a question by Axel Gillman. Axel asked “How long are penalty cards valid in a tournament or cup game?” Mike’s response was
It depends on the reason for the penalty. Generally speaking a “playing penalty” lasts for the game in question. However, “conduct penalties” will remain in force the the full tournament, even if that event is over a number of days or stages. A player may be disqualified for a game or for the tournament, depending on the reason for the disqualification.
About three months later, on May 4, Mike used the terms again, this time in response to a question by Raymond Ager.
The opponents have the point, but they are out of boules. Our shooter is in the circle and about to shoot when an opponent says, “Excuse me, I want to measure to see if we’re holding two,” and proceeds to measure. Normally the opponents shouldn’t move or speak. What is the ruling ?
Mike’s response was
If you had an umpire at your event, he/she should award a warning to the player who interrupted your shooter. It is worth noting that this is considered a “conduct” fault, which is serious, as a repeat of this or any other conduct fault would result in the player being disqualified from the competition— see the closing paragraph of article 17.
Just for the record, the title of Article 17 is Behaviour of players and spectators during a game, and the last paragraph is “The players who do not observe these regulations could be excluded from the competition if, after a warning from an umpire, they persist in their conduct.”
Judging from these two entries, I would summarize the differences this way.
- “Playing” penalties are awarded for violations of the rules of the game. Normally, a first offense would earn a warning (yellow card), while a second offense would get a boule disqualified (orange card). Such a penalty will last only until the end of the game.
- “Conduct” penalties are awarded for violations of the rules of conduct. Normally, a first offense would earn a warning (yellow card), while a second offense could get a player disqualified. The disqualification could be for the remainder of the game or even for the remainder of the competition.
The distinction between playing penalties and conduct penalties is not (or at least not yet) perfect. For one thing, it isn’t written down in any FIPJP document, so at least for now we don’t know if other umpires will recognize and use the distinction. For another, although the distinction seems to be intuitive, it is not sharp— I think there are cases where it isn’t clear whether a particular fault should be considered a playing fault or a conduct fault.
Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We shouldn’t fault a move in the right direction for not achieving perfection on Day One. Bottom line— I think that this distinction IS a useful tool for helping players and umpires to think and speak more clearly about the rules.
Leisure boules vs competition boules – when did the distinction begin?
When did people first start distinguishing between leisure boules and competition boules?
It seems to me that it must have begun when the requirements for competition boules were first codified. As the requirement for boules were gradually written down and refined, boule manufacturers must have began to distinguish between their models of boules that met those requirements (“competition” boules) and their models of boules that didn’t meet all of those requirements but were functionally similar and less expensive (“leisure” boules). Assuming that this is what happened, our question turns into a slightly different question— When did the idea of certified “competition” boules first emerge?
Based on our historical archive of the versions of the rules of the game of petanque, the answer appears to be that happened between 1962 and 1974.
- In 1962 the FIPJP (international) rules first required boules to be certified (agréées) by the the FIPJP.
- In 1964 the FFPJP (French national) rules first required boules to be “agréées par Sa Fédération”.
- In 1970 the French national rules first required boules to be stamped with the boule’s weight.
- In 1974, the French national rules first required boules to be stamped with the manufacturer’s mark.
In 1984, the French national rules were adopted as the FIPJP international rules, and most national federations adopted the FIPJP rules, unchanged, as their national rules. That’s how we got the rules that we have today.
Interestingly, the requirement that competition boules be stamped with the IDs of the boule’s model and set aren’t in the rules of the game. They are in the FIPJP document called Requirements for the Certification of Competition Petanque Boules. Unfortunately, I have no way to trace the history history of that document.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If I had to pick a specific year for when the distinction between leisure boules and competition boules first completely emerged, I’d pick 1974. That was the year when the French national rules first required all of the three things that the international rules now require— (1) that boules be certified, (2) that boules be stamped with the boule’s weight, and (3) that boules be stamped with the manufacturer’s mark.
Frequently-asked questions about the rules of petanque
When you’re looking for an answer to a question—
— FIRST find out if the answer is already available on the web.
For frequently-asked questions about the rules of petanque—
— See our page of FAQs.
— See our posts tagged as FAQs.
For “umpire questions”—
— Search our posts for Article 35.
— Search our posts for collective (penalty/ yellow card/ orange card).
Search our pages and posts for any term.
If you still can’t find an answer to your question, you can—
— post your question on Facebook Petanque Q&A forum
— post your question on Facebook “Ask the Umpire” forum
A different way to think about obstacles
Now that the FIPJP rules allow us to throw the jack right up to a side dead-ball line, I’m afraid we’ll never see the end of questions about whether a wooden surround is a pointing obstacle. All we can do is try to develop a clear answer to the question. Here is my latest effort.
The FIPJP rules define two types of obstacles— throwing obstacles and pointing obstacles. The FIPJP rules specify that the throwing circle must be placed a certain minimum distance from any throwing obstacle, and the thrown (or placed) jack must be placed a certain minimum distance from any pointing obstacle.
Naturally, this focusses our attention on potential obstacles, and we tend to think about these rules in terms of distances from the obstacle.
I think that it would be more effective to stop thinking about obstacles, and instead focus our attention on the the jack and the throwing circle. Rather than thinking about distances from obstacles, we should think in terms of obstacle-free zones around the circle and the jack.
The purpose of the rule about throwing obstacles is to establish an obstacle-free area around the circle so that a player, standing in the center of that zone, can throw a boule without danger of hitting a physical object that might injure his (or her) throwing hand. Basically, a throwing obstacle is a physical object that might hurt the player if it is too close to him (or her). That’s why the rule says that no such objects are permitted in the area around the player, i.e. in the obstacle-free zone around the circle.
The purpose of the rule about pointing obstacles is to establish an obstacle-free area around the jack so that there is no object that might physically prevent a boule from being pointed close to the jack. Basically, a pointing obstacle is a physical object that prevents a boule from being pointed close to the jack. That’s why the rule says that no such objects are permitted in the obstacle-free zone around the jack.
It’s as simple as that.
Using this point of view, let’s look at a question that came up recently on “Ask the Umpire”.
A boundary string separates lane A and lane B. There is a tree in lane B, close to the boundary string. Is it a pointing obstacle for lane A?
The answer is YES… in the following sense. If the jack is thrown out onto lane A, and if (when the jack comes to rest) the tree is inside the jack’s obstacle-free zone, then the tree is indeed a pointing obstacle. In that case, the thrown jack is not valid.
This answer assumes that boules from lane A can roll into lane B without dying, so the obstacle-free zone around the jack extends across the string and into lane B. But what if it is a time-limited game, and the boundary string is also a dead-ball line?
In that case, the jack’s obstacle-free zone extends only 8cm into lane B. If the tree is more than 8cm away from the dead-ball line, it is not within the jack’s obstacle-free zone. That means that the jack can be thrown right next to the dead-ball line and still be valid.
What is so magical about the 8cm distance? The maximum legal diameter of a boule is 8cm. As in the diagram (above), a boule can almost completely cross a dead-ball line and still be alive. But if it rolls any farther, it will die. That means that any object that is more than 8cm outside the dead-ball line can never be a pointing obstacle for a live boule. Any boule that reached it would be DOA: dead on arrival.
Conversely, a tree that is less than 8cm from the dead-ball line could be in the jack’s obstacle-free zone.
Since no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time, the tree really could be a pointing obstacle. In this diagram (below) we see that the tree really could prevent a live boule from entering part of the obstacle-free zone around the jack. That’s why in this case the thrown jack is invalid.
Is a wooden surround a pointing obstacle?
Our terrain is marked by dead-ball strings and enclosed by a wooden surround (boule-stop). Is the wooden surround a pointing obstacle?
The answer is exactly the same for the wooden surround as it was for the tree. A wooden surround that is less than 8cm from the dead-ball string can stop a live boule. So if the wooden surround is less than 8cm from the dead-ball string and less than 50cm from the thrown jack (i.e. inside the jack’s obstacle-free zone) the thrown jack is not valid. This is why a dead-ball string should always be installed more than 8cm from a wooden surround. The recommended minimum distance is 30cm.
Is a wooden surround a pointing obstacle when there is no dead-ball string?
Our terrain is enclosed by a wooden surround, but we have no dead-ball strings. Is the wooden surround considered to be a pointing obstacle?
YES. It is a pointing obstacle, and a thrown or placed jack must be at least 50cm from the wooden surround. Note, however, that because there are no dead-ball strings on your terrain, you are not playing by FIPJP rules— you are playing by your own local rules. You should adopt whatever local rule is agreeable to the two teams.
Challenging the jack
After reading a recent question on “Ask the Umpire” I’ve been thinking about the notion of challenging the jack. I’ve come to the conclusion that the notion of challenging the jack is completely bogus and we should stop using it.
The rule about challenging the jack is brief and cryptic. Article 7 lists the requirements for a thrown jack to be valid, but it doesn’t describe any procedures for determining whether or not the jack meets those requirements. In the next article, Article 8, we find this
If you read the rules carefully, you will notice that the rules never explicitly say that Team A, before it plays its first boule, may make measurements to verify the jack’s validity. Article 8, however, assumes that Team A can do that, and Article 8’s concern is to make it clear that Team B may do the same thing— measure the jack to verify its validity before playing its first boule. If we combine what Article 8 says with what it assumes, the rule that we get is this.
The FIPJP rule as it currently stands is so obfuscated by bad writing and poor vocabulary choices (“challenge the jack”, “objection”) that it confuses both players and umpires. Questions are asked. After Team A has thrown the jack, while one of its players is standing in the circle and ready to throw the first boule, can Team B challenge the jack? If not, why not? If so, what is the correct procedure for doing it? If Team B challenges the jack, can Team A simply ignore the challenge?
All of these questions surfaced again recently, when Allen Cassady posted a question on Mike Pegg’s “Ask the Umpire” Facebook group. Here is a lightly-edited version of that post.
Question #1. May Albert ignore Bob’s comment and proceed to throw his boule? Or, knowing that there is a disagreement as to the validity of the jack, must he stop and let the two teams measure the jack?
Question #2. Should the umpire warn/penalize Bob for violating the first sentence of Article 17, which requires players and spectators to observe total silence before a player plays his boule?
With respect to question #1, international umpire Mike Pegg’s answer was—
It would be in the best interest for Team A to check the validity of the jack before they throw their first boule, especially as Team B are already challenging its position. But your question is— Could Team A go ahead and play their first boule? The answer is YES.
Note that Mike describes Bob’s action as “challenging [the jack’s] position”, but then he says that Albert may ignore Bob’s “challenge”! But… surely if the idea of a right to bring a challenge is a meaningful one, a lawful challenge cannot simply be ignored. That’s why I suspect that Mike regards Bob’s comment simply as a casual remark, and not as a formal challenge. And I suspect that Mike’s answer accurately reflects the meaning and intent of Article 8. And I suspect that Article 8 contains nothing at all like a concept of formally challenging the jack.
If you accept the idea that Article 8 is trying to say that each team, before playing its first boule, may measure the jack, then the concept of “challenging the jack” simply drops out of the rules. And as it disappears it takes along with it all of the questions that it spawned. It becomes clear, for example, that Mike was right. Albert can ignore Bob’s comment, because there is no such thing in the FIPJP rules as formally challenging the jack. Bob’s casual remark was just that: a casual remark.
With respect to question #2 (Should the umpire warn/penalize Bob for violating the Article 17 rule requiring players and spectators to observe total silence before a player plays his boule?), note that the umpire’s job is to apply the rules appropriately, taking into consideration the unique circumstances of each particular situation. In one set of circumstances, an umpire might think it appropriate to give Bob a yellow card. In another set of circumstances, he might not. In this particular case, Mike has no problem with Bob voicing his thoughts; Mike even thinks it was helpful to Team A. A yellow card is not appropriate in this case.
The bottom line is that Article 8 is badly written and misleading. The concept of challenging the jack is not a useful way of understanding Article 8, and we should stop using it. The rule (or if you prefer, the rule interpretation) that we should use is this.
When I watch petanque singles matches on Youtube, or play singles myself, I always find myself feeling vaguely dissatisfied. It feels like each mene (end, round) is over before it has properly begun. Or— each mene is being cut off prematurely, before reaching proper completion.
The problem, I think, is that the FIPJP rules specify that, in singles games, each player plays with only three boules. And what would solve the problem, I think, is for each player to play with four boules— 4-boule singles.
The notion of 4-boule singles is a natural idea, and it isn’t a new none. At the FIPJP world championships in Spa, Belgium in 1959, singles games were played with four boules.
Most players find the notion of 4-boule singles an appealing one. In 2016 BOULISTENAUTE.COM conducted an informal survey of world-class players. You can find it on Youtube, in a video called “Pétanque le TaT à 3 ou 4 boules? Interviews”. By a ratio of 2 or 3 to 1, top-ranking players said that they would prefer to play singles with 4 boules.
And of course the idea has a pleasing mathematical regularity.
3-player teams ==> 2 boules each 2-player teams ==> 3 boules each 1-player teams ==> 4 boules each
The bottom line is that in my opinion the FIPJP rules should be changed to specify that singles games are to be played with four boules, or at least to specify that singles games may be played with three or four boules.
Until that happens, nothing is stopping us from playing 4-boule singles in informal/social play. The rules of Petanque Libre, which are designed specifically for use in such games, allow players to play singles with whatever number of boules they wish, and actually specifies that singles will be played with 4 boules.
FIPJP rules specify that in singles games players play with 3 boules. PL rules specify 4 boules. This is a deliberately provocative specification, designed to encourage players to make a conscious decision about how many boules to use when playing singles.
As for practical considerations… petanque boules are normally sold in sets of three, but I don’t think that this is a serious impediment to the practice of 4-boule singles— we can simply play with boules from two different sets. Most serious players own at least two sets of boules, and, for more casual players, sets of leisure boules are inexpensive. And FIPJP rules do not require that all of a player’s boules to be from the same 3-boule set.
Foot faults – What to do?
For a number of years a slow-motion discussion/debate has been creeping along on Mike Pegg’s “Ask the Umpire” Facebook forum, about how umpires should handle foot faults. This is a technical debate by, for, and about umpires and has little relevance for grass-roots players. And it seems to be settled; the umpiring community seems to have reached a consensus on the answer. But it is something that keeps coming up periodically on “Ask the Umpire”, so I think it is worth-while to summarize the current state of the discussion.
The basic question is— When a player commits a foot fault (steps on the circle or lifts a foot) what should the umpire do? And two different answers have been proposed.
- The umpire should impose one of the standard penalties listed in Article 35. In most cases, this means giving the player a warning (yellow card).
- The umpire should impose a standard penalty. In addition, the umpire should disqualify the player’s boule, and restore any balls that it moved to their original locations (if those locations were marked).
Two different arguments have been offered for the second answer.
- The player violated the rules when he committed the foot fault. The umpire therefore should follow the procedures described in Article 24 for handling boules “thrown contrary to the rules”. This means disqualifying the boule, re-spotting balls, etc. etc.
- The player derived an “unfair advantage” from his violation of the rules. An umpire should never allow a player to benefit from violating the rules, so the umpire should undo the effects of the player’s boule. This means disqualifying the boule, re-spotting balls, etc. etc.
The consensus of opinion (supported in my opinion by sound reasoning) seems to be that the correct answer is (1). The umpire should impose a penalty, but leave the situation on the ground unchanged.
The grounds for this opinion go back to 2016 when the bolded text (below) was inserted into Article 24. I don’t know why this change was made. Possibly it was designed specifically to resolve the question that we’re now discussing.
Article 24 – Boules thrown contrary to the rules
Except for cases in which these regulations specify the application of specific and graduated penalties in article 35, any boule thrown contrary to the rules is dead, and anything that it displaced in its travel is put back in place, if those objects had been marked. However, the opponent has the right to apply the advantage rule and declare it to be valid. In this case, the boule pointed or shot, is valid and anything it has displaced remains in its place.
It took a while for the implications of the change to filter out into the umpiring community. In 2018 the foot fault question came up again on Ask the Umpire. In the Masters de Pétanque an umpire had given Dylan Rocher a warning for a foot fault, but he did not disqualify Dylan’s thrown boule. The question was— Did the umpire rule correctly?
Mike Pegg replied with answer 2b— “The umpire should have disqualified the boule and put back the original boule because the player who lifted his foot should not be given this unfair advantage.”
In response, FPUSA umpire Gary Jones pointed out that “Since Article 6 clearly states that Article 35 should be applied for the infraction of lifting one’s foot while throwing, and Article 24 clearly states that it is applicable only where the rules do not provide for specific and graduated penalties as outlined in Article 35, I would rule exactly as the presiding umpire did.”
At the time, Mike didn’t accept Gary’s position. But Gary was clearly correct and by 2022 Mike had changed his mind and ruled in in the same way as Gary and the original umpire.
Let’s look at the arguments supporting the position that the umpire should step in and disqualify the thrown boule. For a number of years, umpires found these arguments persuasive, although they weren’t often articulated clearly.
The first argument is that the player violated the rules when he committed the foot fault, and the umpire therefore should follow the procedures described in Article 24 for handling boules “thrown contrary to the rules”. This is wrong. The new clause in Article 24 makes it quite clear that the penalties in Article 6, not the advantage rule in Article 24, should be applied in case of a foot fault. And in fact, Article 24 has never given the umpire the right to step in and undo the effects of a boule “thrown contrary to the rules”. The rule has always been that the offended team, not the umpire, may apply the advantage rule.
The second argument is that the player gained an “unfair benefit” from his violation of the rules. An umpire should never allow a player to benefit from violating the rules, so the umpire should undo the effects of the player’s boule. As Mazlan Ahmad puts it—
What if the score stood at 12-12, and then the player shoots with feet outside the circle. He gets the yellow card, but wins the game! He still benefitted from the fault! I have [a rule] embeded in my mind, from reading the article/book “Petanque – a guide to umpiring” (by our Admin, Mike Pegg) and I’m holding fast to it— A FAULT MUST NEVER BENEFIT THE PERSON WHO COMMITTED IT.
The crux of this argument is the idea that if a player commits a foot fault while making a successful throw, his success must be due to the foot fault— committing the foot fault gave him some kind of special benefit. But this is the well-known mistake of confusing proximity in time with causation, the old post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy. In fact the idea that (say) stepping on the circle can enable a player to carreau when otherwise he would miss completely, isn’t even remotely plausible. Even in the most extreme cases that one can imagine, the possible benfit of the foot fault is insignificant. In short, it is a myth that committing a foot fault gives a player some kind of benefit. When we accept this fact, the second argument collapses.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The consensus of opinion in the umpiring community is that when a player commits a foot fault, the umpire should follow the provisions of Article 6 and penalize him with one of the standard penalties listed in Article 35. The umpire should NOT change anything about the situation on the ground, no matter how successful or unsuccessful the player’s throw was.
Can an object outside the lane be a pointing obstacle?
See our post on A different way to think about obstacles.