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The FIPJP rules use many terms without defining them. The worst offender in this regard is the word “obstacle”. “What is an obstacle?” is probably the most-frequently-asked question about the rules. So… What is an obstacle? [disclaimer]
In the FIPJP rules, “obstacle” is not a technical term. It is an ordinary word that means, roughly, “something that interferes with the normal course of some activity or process.” The relevant activity or process must be inferred from the context. Naturally, the context differs from rule to rule.
- In Article 10, an “obstacle” is any natural feature of the terrain that might make pointing difficult. Article 10 says that even though a player might want to pick up or push down an “obstacle” like a stone or a hump in the ground, or tamp down some soft earth, he is not allowed to do so.
- In Article 19, an “obstacle” is anything that causes a boule to bounce back in-bounds after it has gone out-of-bounds.
- In Article 25, an “obstacle” is something on the terrain (a big rock, a tree root) that gets in the way of measurement.
More interesting kinds of obstacles are…
Both Article 6 (on placing the circle) and Article 7 (on throwing the jack) say that the throwing circle must be at least one meter from any “obstacle” and at least 2 meters from another throwing circle in use. The purpose of these rules is to move the circle away from throwing obstacles— features of the playing area that might interfere with a player’s normal throwing form. The most common kind of throwing obstacle are objects that might interfere with a player’s backswing. Trees, telephone poles, trash receptacles, walls, and crowd-control barriers count as throwing obstacles if they are too close to the circle. The category of “throwing obstacles” also includes features of the terrain that might interfere with a player’s footing. A patch of ground that is too irregular for a player to stand with a solid footing, a patch of slippery mud, a puddle of rainwater— all of these count as throwing obstacles.
Article 7 (on throwing the jack) also says that the thrown jack must be a minimum of 1 meter from any “obstacle” and from any dead-ball line. This rule is designed to insure that there is at least one meter of clear space around the thrown jack, so that it is possible for a player to point a boule anywhere within a meter of the jack. Here, pointing obstacles are things such as walls or buildings on the terrain that infringe on the clear space around the thrown jack.
There are a number of questions about “obstacles” that are frequently asked.
Is a wooden surround a throwing obstacle? It might interfere with the backswing of a squat pointer.
Mike Pegg has ruled that a wooden surround is NOT a throwing obstacle for a squat pointer, because the player can always stand (rather than squat) when pointing. I think, however, that (depending on the circumstances) another umpire might reasonably rule that players should be able safely to use their normal throwing form, whatever that form might be, and that a wooden surround can be considered a throwing obstacle if a squat pointer expresses concerns at the time that the circle is being placed. The primary goal here is to allow players to throw normally, and to do so without fear of injury.
Are tree trunks considered to be throwing or pointing obstacles?
Are tree roots considered to be throwing or pointing obstacles?
Generally speaking: NO. They are considered to be features of the terrain, like rocks.
Article 19 says that a boule is dead if it goes out-of-bounds, hits an “obstacle”, and then comes back on to the terrain. Are things ABOVE the ground “obstacles”? If a thrown boule or jack hits something ABOVE the terrain, is it dead?
The answer is NO, it is not. The real question here is “Are objects above the terrain considered to be out-of-bounds?” And the answer to that question is NO. Any object that is directly above the terrain— any object inside the imaginary invisible walls created by vertically projecting the dead-ball lines into the sky— is in-bounds. That means that if a boule or a jack hits an overhanging tree branch, a low-hanging light fixture, or a boulodrome ceiling, and drops down onto the terrain, it is still alive. (Local or tournament rules may over-ride this general rule of course.) Here is an outdoor boulodrome in Seaside, Florida. Note the low-hanging light fixtures. They are in-bounds features of the terrain.
The term “obstacle” is not defined in the rules. Umpires therefore have a huge amount of latitude in interpreting rules involving “obstacles”. In any given situation, an umpire may interpet the rules differently than another umpire would, or differently than I do here. (Note that article numbers in this post refer to the 2016 version of the FIPJP rules.)
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Here is a Frequently Asked Question about moving a boule during measuring.
Article 28 says:
The point is lost by a team if one of its players, while making a measurement, displaces the jack or one of the contested boules.
The question is:
Boules A1 and B1 appear to be the same distance from the jack. While measuring, Albert (from team A) accidentally bumps B1 a few millimeters farther away from the jack. So (per Article 28, because Team A moved a boule while measuring) Team A loses the point. Boule A1 loses the point, boule B1 has the point, and Team A plays the next boule.
During the agreement of points, Team A starts to use the normal point-counting procedure. A1 is closer to the jack than B1, so Team A naturally says that A1 beats B1. Team B disagrees, arguing that A1 earlier lost the point to B1. What is the correct ruling?
In replies to this question on Ask the Umpire, international umpire Mike Pegg has ruled that as long as none of the involved balls (jack, A1, B1) has been moved, when points are counted A1 cannot be counted as beating B1. In other places he has ruled that A1 does not count in a measure for points as long as neither the jack nor A1 has been moved during play. The bottom line is that Team B is correct— when points are counted, A1 must still be considered farther away from the jack than B1.
Accidentally moving a ball while measuring is an illegal event. An “illegal event” is an event that is not possible within the rules of the game, but that is physically possible and actually occurs in real life. (In chess, for instance, accidentally upsetting the board is not a legal move, but sometimes it happens.) The ideal response to an illegal event is to undo it: to put everything back where it was before the illegal event occurred. In petanque, this would mean that the two teams would agree on how to put the illegally-moved things back. (This is the philosophy of Petanque Libre.)
Interestingly, Mike Pegg has suggested that it is possible for the two teams to agree to undo an illegal event even in a game supervised by FIPJP umpires. If an unmarked boule is moved accidentally, he says, agree with your opponent to replace the boule. “Do not call the umpire because if you do he or she will say the boule must remain where it is.”
Simply leaving everything where it is after an illegal event, rather than undoing the event, can lead to unfair decisions. In our example, if A1 had been bumped (so that its location but not its distance from the jack had been changed) A1 would have had the point. This might have given Team A the game and even the competition victory. Naturally, Team B would be upset. They would feel that Albert’s illegal action— which, despite its illegality, was allowed to stand— had robbed them of what might have been the winning point. And they would be right. Mike Pegg says
For team B this may seem a little unfair given the outcome of other boules being played but they should have marked their boule.
Mike’s remark reminds us that when nothing is marked, an FIPJP umpire must rule that everything should be left where it is. If a team complains about unfairness, the umpire’s response is to blame the players for not marking their boules. It is a feeble response, but it is the only defense that the umpire has against charges of unfairness.
Read other posts in the Putting Things Back category
The FIPJP rules of petanque are designed for use in FIPJP-sanctioned competitions supervised by FIPJP-certified umpires. In addition to being unclear and sometimes unfair when strictly interpreted, the FIPJP rules are dependent on the presence of an umpire to the extent that, under some circumstance, they are useless in friendly games. By “friendly games” I mean games played outside of an organized competition, without an umpire.
In response to these problems, the Petanque Libre Project has developed an alternate set of rules for the game of petanque. The Petanque Libre rules are designed with friendly games in mind; they are designed so that ordinary players can understand, interpret, and apply them in games played outside of an organized competition, without an umpire.
A zombie boule is a boule that dies and then returns to life and attacks the living. It is a boule that is knocked out of bounds, hits something, rebounds back onto the terrain, and then moves or deflects or stops still-living balls (boules or the jack). When that happens we are confronted by The Zombie Boule Question:
A zombie boule has interfered with the game. What should we do?
Article 19, which covers dead boules, gives us these instructions for dealing with zombies.
Any boule is dead from the moment that it enters an out-of-bounds area. … If the boule then comes back onto the game terrain, either because of the slope of the ground, or because it rebounds off of an obstacle, moving or stationary, it is immediately removed from the game and anything that it displaced after its trip through the out-of-bounds area is put back in its original location provided that those objects had been marked. [Note that the words “provided that those objects had been marked” were added in the 2016 rules revision.]
The problem with this rule is that “putting things back in their original places” is a useless concept. In real life, the original places of balls are never marked, so it is impossible to put things back in their original places. And who knows what “original place” means for a ball that was in motion when it was stopped or deflected by a zombie? If an umpire is called in to make a decision in a Zombie Boule situation, he will always rule that the zombie boule should be removed, everything else should be left where it is, and the game should continue.
As soon as we forget the notion of “putting things back in their original places”, everything becomes easy. What might help, perhaps, is a way of thinking about zombie boules that makes it easy to see the answer to a Zombie Boule Question. Something like this.
A boule that goes out of bounds is dead. After a boule is dead, if it interacts in any way with a live ball, it is treated as part of the terrain (like a stone). As soon as possible after a boule dies, it should be moved to a location outside of, and well away from, the dead-ball line and left on the ground.
Thinking about zombie boules this way won’t change the way that zombie boules should be dealt with. But it might make it easier to see the right answer in some zombie-boule situations. Like this one.
Boule A is hit by boule B. Boule A is knocked across the dead-ball line and is stopped by the wooden sideboard. Boule B quickly follows. Normally boule B would go out-of-bounds, but in this case it is stopped by boule A. It doesn’t completely cross the dead-ball line. (See the diagram, below.) Is boule B dead?
The answer is— NO. Boule B never went completely out-of-bounds so it is not dead. The fact that boule B was stopped by a dead boule makes no difference whatsoever. As far as a live boule is concerned, a dead boule on or near the terrain is just another feature of the terrain, like a rock or a tree root. When boule A stopped boule B from crossing the dead-ball line, it was just as if a rock or root on the terrain had stopped boule B.
In this example, everything happened very fast. But the same kind of situation can develop slowly. Suppose that Boule A is knocked out of bounds. Then another boule is played, and another. Then boule B ends up being stopped by boule A. Just as before, boule B is still alive.
In this slow-motion situation, international umpire Mike Pegg has ruled that
The player of boule A and his team is given a warning for not removing the dead boule.
I take it that Mike is acting on a rule interpretation in which “the terrain” includes not just the in-bounds area but also the out-of-bounds area to some unspecified distance from the dead-ball line. That’s why he has also stated (the underscores are mine) that
anything (boule, bag, etc.) on the terrain and in a position that it would stop a boule or jack from completely crossing the dead ball line should be removed. Which is why you often see umpires moving bags and the like to the other side of the timber surround.
This post has been updated for the 2016 FIPJP rules revision.
It supercedes three earlier posts about zombie boules.
Here is a list of the important changes to the rules of petanque made by the FIPJP in 2016. (This is an expanded version of an earlier post.) The 2016 FIPJP rules of petanque are available on the FIPJP web site and the Rules of Petanque web site.
2017-03-17: added a note on the need for a new interpretion of Article 8 and a photograph of an approved folding circle.
- Article 10a has been renamed to be Article 11, and all subsequent articles renumbered. So the rules now have 41 articles, rather than 40.
- Article 3: The weight of the jack must be between 10 and 18 grams. (This means that synthetic jacks, which weigh 22g, are no longer permitted.)
- Article 5: The opening sentence has been changed from “Petanque is played on all terrains,” to “Petanque is played on all surfaces.”
- Article 6: Folding circles (cercles pliables) are permitted but only if they are of a model and rigidity approved by the FIPJP. (Folding circles that are approved by the FIPJP will be marked “Agréé FIPJP”.)
- Article 6: The throwing circle must be marked before the jack is thrown.
- Article 6: If a player picks up the circle when there are boules still to be played, the circle is replaced but only the opponents are allowed to play their boules.
- Article 7: The team winning the toss or the previous end will have ONE and only one attempt to throw a valid jack. If the thrown jack is not valid, the jack is given to the opposing team which then places the jack in any valid location on the designated terrain.
- Article 7: The throwing circle must now be placed at least two meters from any other active circle.
- Article 7: During time-limited games only, for a thrown jack, the required minimum distance from a SIDE dead-ball line (not from an END dead-ball line) is reduced to 50cm.
- Article 8 contains the following sentence: “Before the jack is given to the opposing team for them to place it, both teams must have recognized that the throw was not valid or the Umpire must have decided it to be so. If any team proceeds differently, it loses the right to throw the jack.” The words have not changed, but the second sentence must be given a new interpretation in light of the changes to the rules for the throw of the jack.
If Team A throws a jack that appears to Team B to be long, and Team B picks the jack up before Team A agrees that it actually was long, an umpire may rule that Team B has lost the right to place the jack, and give the jack to Team A, which will then place (not throw) it. It is likely that the second sentence will be revised in the next version of the rules.
- Article 10: “Sweeping” (the ground with a foot) in front of a boule to be shot is now specifically mentioned as a violation of the rule against changing the terrain. (This is a clarification of, rather than a change to, the existing rule.)
- Article 26: Players must stand at least two meters away from an umpire while he is measuring.
- Article 27: If a player picks up his boules from the playing area while his partners have boules remaining, they will not be allowed to play them.
- Article 31: It is now no longer the responsibility of each team to check and verify the opposing team’s licenses, boules, qualifications to play in the competition, etc.
- Article 33: A mene is considered to start when the jack is thrown, regardless of whether or not the throw was valid.
- Article 35: In order to simplify the penalties, the penalty of disqualification of TWO boules has been eliminated.
- Article 35: The rules now officially recognize the use of colored signal cards.
- Article 35: The discussion of warnings has two new provisions. (1) A yellow card for exceeding the time limit will be imposed on ALL of the players of the offending team. (2) If one of these players has already been given a yellow card, that player will be penalised by disqualification of a boule.
These new provisions are poorly written and it will probably be some time before umpires agree on how to interpret them. One likely outcome is this— In the past, umpires usually treated a time-violation as an individual offense. Thus, if player A on Team T exceeded the time limit, the umpire would give A a warning. Later, if player B on Team T exceeded the time limit, the umpire would give B a warning. Now, with these new provisions, it seems likely that if player A on Team T exceeds the time limit, the umpire will give Team T a warning. Later, if player B on Team T exceeds the time limit, the umpire will penalize Team T by disqualifying one of the team’s boules.
- Article 39: Correct dress is required of the players, specifically: (a) it is forbidden to play without a top (i.e. with a bare torso) and (b) for safety reasons, the players must wear fully enclosed shoes. In addition, it is forbidden to smoke (or use an e-cigarette) and to use a mobile phone during a game.
American players should note that the FPUSA rules have changed in another way.
Following a new policy, the FPUSA has adopted the 2016 international rules “as written” as its national rules.
Adopting the international rules “as written” means doing away with the italicized modifications and addendums added to the FPUSA version over the years. Doing so also means our players will learn to play per the international rules, nothing more, nothing less. [Mike] Pegg’s advice to the FPUSA is to publish the rules as adopted in December 2016 by the FIPJP and separately publish clarification for the more ambiguous and broadly interpreted aspects of the rules or for issues unique to the FPUSA. We agree with Mike and are already in the process of updating the “2015 Interpretation’s” currently in use by the federation.
Previous versions of the FPUSA rules also differed from the FIPJP rules in the wording of the Puddle Rule in Article 9. With the adoption of the FIPJP rules “as written”, that difference no longer exists.
What does it mean to “disqualify a boule”?
Depending on the context, “disqualifying a boule” can mean one of two quite different things. The key to recognizing the two contexts lies in the expression “disqualification of the boule played or to be played.”
The first context is one where we want to disqualify a boule that has already been played. Suppose, for instance, that a player has already received one warning for a foot fault— for standing on the circle while throwing. Now, the umpire is watching him closely. Again, the player stands on the circle while throwing his boule. The umpire shows an orange card and tells the player that the boule that he has just thrown is disqualified because of his repeated foot fault. In that context, we can point to a specific boule and say “THAT is the boule to be disqualified.” That specific boule is declared dead and removed from the terrain.
The second context is one where we want to disqualify a boule that has not yet been played. Suppose, for instance, that a team has already received one warning for violating the 1-minute rule. Now they are standing around and discussing strategy. Their discussion takes more than one minute. The umpire approaches the team and informs them that one of the team’s boules is now disqualified because of the team’s second infraction of the 1-minute rule. But… which boule should be disqualified? Suppose that the team has 4 unplayed boules. How does the umpire pick out which boule he is going to point to and say “THAT is the boule to be disqualified”?
The answer is that he doesn’t. In this situation, “disqualifying a boule” doesn’t mean picking out a particular boule for disqualification. It means reducing the number of boules that the penalized team (or player) is allowed to throw in the future. As Mike Pegg said during an exchange on “Ask the Umpire”—
If the team has 4 boules and are then advised that 1 boule is disqualified, they then have 3 boules.
They may have 4 unplayed boules in hand, but since one of those boules has been disqualified, they are now allowed to throw only three boules. Which boules they choose to throw is up to them. If the penalized team has no more boules to throw, the number of boules that they can throw in the next mene is reduced.
As Article 35 says—
If one of these players has already been given a yellow card, he will be penalized by disqualification of a boule during the mene in progress or for the following mene if he has no more boules to play.
Excluding a player
After disqualifying a boule, the next level of penalty is the exclusion of a player from the rest of the game. The procedures for excluding a player are similar to the procedures for disqualifying a boule.
On the one hand, the umpire may walk up to a specific player and say, “YOU are excluded from the rest of the game.” On the other hand, the umpire may walk up to the captain of a triples team and say, “For the rest of the game, starting with the next mene, your team is allowed to play with only two players.”
One of the problems with the FIPJP rules document is that it mixes together in one document material that properly belongs in three different documents— rules of the game, administrative procedures, and guidelines for umpires. In particular, mixing guidelines for umpires with rules of the game blurs the difference between the two. The rules about “putting things back” are a good illustration of this problem.
There are a variety of ways in which a ball (boule or jack) can be moved illegally during a game. When a ball is illegally moved, players then confront the question of whether they should leave it where it is, or put it back in its original location. It is an often-overlooked fact that the rules about relocating an illegally-moved jack are different from the rules about relocating an illegally-moved boule.
Wherever the rules discuss the jack, they say that the jack can be put back in its original location (remis à sa place primitive) only on condition that its original location was marked. In contrast, in the one place where the rules discuss boules (Article 22), they say simply that the boule should be put back (remise en place). This is quite understandable because it is only a jack, not a boule, that is likely to have its original location marked. It is a tradition (a fading tradition, now, I think) for players to mark the location of the jack immediately after it has been thrown, in order to avoid The Pushed-Jack Question.
Now, into these relatively clear waters, we will mix a dollop of guidelines for umpires.
Article 12 – Jack masked or displaced … To avoid all disagreement, the players must mark the position of the jack. No claim will be accepted [by an umpire] regarding unmarked boules or an unmarked jack.
Article 22 – Displaced boules … To avoid all disagreement, the players must mark the boules. No claim will be admissible for an unmarked boule, and the umpire will make his decision based only on the locations of the boules on the terrain.
Basically, this boils down to two guidelines: one for umpires and one for players. The guideline for umpires is:
When making a decision concerning an illegally-moved ball (boule or jack) an umpire will ignore any claim by players about the original location of the ball if that original location is not marked, and will make his decision based only on the current locations of the balls on the terrain.
In light of this guideline for umpires, the rules offer the following guideline (or advice, really) for players.
An umpire will ignore any claim that you might make about the original location of a ball if that original location is not marked. Therefore, the only way that you can avoid the certainty that an umpire will rule NOT to return an illegally-moved ball to its original location is (a) always to mark the current location of every ball on the terrain, and (b) always to create new marks and erase old marks whenever any of the balls is moved.
These guidelines generate many questions and a lot of discussion on online petanque forums. This is not the place to get into them. The point that I want to make here is that these are guidelines for umpires, not rules of the game. That means that—
(a) If you are an umpire, and are called on to render a decision in a game, these guidelines are binding on you. You MUST follow them. You, as umpire, can NEVER return an unmarked boule to its original location.
(b) If you are a player in a social game where there is no umpire, these guidelines do not apply to you. For you, they are simply irrelevant. You and your fellow players are free to agree on a location, put the boule back (approximately) in its original location, and carry on with your game.
However, in case (b), remember that the rules for relocating a jack are different from the rules for relocating a boule. Even in a social game, if you want strictly to follow the FIPJP rules, a jack can be relocated to its original location only if its original location was marked. (You can, however, relocate an unmarked jack when playing by the rules of Petanque Libre.)
Note that if you are playing in an umpired game and a ball is moved illegally, you are NOT required to call in an umpire to render a decision. (An umpire may of course decide to step in uninvited.) When no umpire is present, your game is in essentially the same situation as if you were playing social petanque. You and your fellow players are NOT bound by the umpire’s guidelines. In the case of an illegally-moved boule, if you and your fellow players can agree on a location, you are free to relocate the illegally moved boule and to carry on with the game.
Read other posts in the Putting Things Back category