When a player stops a moving jack or boule

[updated 2021-09-01]
One frequently-asked question about the rules is— Suppose that the jack or a boule is hit and sent flying. And suppose that a player accidentally stops (or deflects) that moving jack or boule. What should be done?

The answer depends on whether the the ball that was stopped was a jack or a boule, and whether or not its original location was marked.

When the jack is stopped

Article 15 says—

  • If the jack’s original location was not marked, there is only one thing to do. The jack is left where it came to rest and the game continues.
     
  • If the jack’s original location was marked, then the offended team (i.e. the opponents of the player who interfered with the jack) may apply an “advantage rule”. They may choose among THREE options.
    – They may leave the jack where it is.
    – They may put it back in its original location.
    – They may (within limits) put it where it would have gone if it hadn’t been stopped.

The FIPJP rules describe the third option this way.

Place it [the jack] on the extension of a line going from its original location to the place where it is located, up to a maximum distance of 20 meters from the circle.

This raises another question.— What is the “extension” of a line?

Suppose you have two points, A and B. Draw a line from point A to point B and then keep on going, extending the line indefinitely. When you do this, the part of the line that extends out beyond B is called the “extension” of the line from A to B.

So the third option says that the offended team may start with the jack’s original (marked) location, walk toward its current location, pick up the jack and keep walking in a straight line. They can put the jack down where ever they like— within specified limits. The limits for placing the jack are— the jack can’t be placed farther than 20 meters from the circle.

Note that on an open terrain (without any marked dead-ball lines), the jack is dead if it is located more than 20 meters from the circle. So the third option’s 20-meter limit means that on an open terrain you can’t place the jack so far from the circle that you kill it.

On the other hand, under competition conditions (played on a marked terrain 4×15 meters) the third option allows the offended team to place the jack outside the game’s dead-ball line, killing it. This is A Good Thing. Jacks often go out-of-bounds when a team deliberately shoots and kills the jack. When a jack is deliberately and successfully shot— but then accidentally stopped— clearly the fair thing to do is to declare the jack to be dead.

When a boule is stopped

Article 20 says—

  • If the boule’s original location was not marked, there is only one thing to do. The boule is left where it came to rest and the game continues.
     
  • If the boule’s original location was marked, then the offended team (which may or may not be the owner of the boule) may apply an advantage rule. They may choose among TWO options.
    – They may leave the boule where it is.
    – They may (within limits) put it where it would have gone if it hadn’t been stopped.

The limits for placing the boule are— the boule can’t be placed outside of the boundaries of the playable area. That is, it can’t be placed on dead ground.


Advantage Rule differences

There are differences between the advantage rules for a stopped jack and a stopped boule.

  • The jack’s advantage rule allows a jack to be put down on dead ground and killed, but that can’t be done for a stopped boule.
     
  • The boule’s advantage rule offers two options, rather than the jack’s three. An offended team has the option of placing a stopped jack back in its original (marked) location, but that’s not an option for a stopped boule.


Handling a stopped jack after the 2020 rules revision

Before 2020, if a team deliberately shot the jack in an attempt to kill it, and the jack was clearly headed out-of-bounds when a player accidentally stopped it, the umpire always ruled that the jack must be left where it was stopped. This was clearly unfair, but the umpire was not to blame. He was simply applying the rule as it was written. The jack’s original location was virtually never marked, which meant that the umpire could not allow the offended team to invoke the advantage rule, which meant that the stopped jack could not be declared to be dead. This very unfair situation sometimes led to serious conflict between players and umpires.

That changed with the 2020 FIPJP rules revision. Now the jack must always be marked. That means that the offended team will almost always have the option of invoking the advantage rule and killing the jack. In this way the new rule (that the jack must be marked) really improves the fairness of the rules.

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