Around 2011, national petanque federations started to adopt the use of colored penalty cards. Australia and New Zealand began using them, and they were used about the same time in the FIPJP world championships. In 2014, a meeting of international umpires voted to include them in the FIPJP rules, so they almost certainly will be in the next version of the FIPJP rules.
The colored cards are called “penalty cards” or “signal cards”. Different colors mean different things, depending on the sport in which they are being used. In petanque, the six penalties in Article 34 are indicated by a scheme of three colors (yellow, orange, red). The mapping is a bit rough, but basically—
yellow :: a warning orange :: disqualification of one or more boules red :: disqualification of one or more players
Here are a couple of graphics that explain the meanings of the colors in greater detail. The first was provided by international umpire Mike Pegg. The second is from a page on the web site of the Australian Petanque Federation.
How do signal cards work?
Signal cards are sort of like traffic tickets.
Suppose you’re out driving, going a bit over the speed limit, and you get pulled over by a police officer. Because it’s your first offense, and because it isn’t too serious, he gives you a stern talking-to and lets you go with a warning.
That’s the FIRST time you get caught speeding. If you get caught a SECOND time, you don’t get another warning — you get a ticket.
It’s the same with umpires and signal cards. If an umpire notices a player (or players) engaging in some sort of inappropriate behavior, and it’s their first time and not too serious, he will probably warn them, and show a yellow warning card. A yellow warning card doesn’t carry any kind of penalty or punishment— it’s just… well… a warning.
But repeated or more serious offenses CAN trigger penalties. An orange card signals that the umpire has disqualified one or more boules. A red card signals the disqualification of a player (or possibly even an entire team) from the remainder of the game (or possibly even from the entire competition).
Petanque penalties are like traffic citations in other ways, too.
There is no rule saying that for your first offense you always get off with just a warning. If the offense is bad enough, you can be slapped with a penalty (indicated by an orange or red card) for a first offense.
- You get only one warning. After being warned once, a second offense will almost certainly result in a penalty.
- If you do multiple Bad Things at the same time, you can be warned or cited for multiple violations.
- If you offend again, you can be cited again.
A short history of signal cards
Colored signal cards were invented in 1966 during the FIFA (soccer/football) World Cup. A quarter-final game was being played between an English-speaking team and a Spanish-speaking team, with a German-speaking referee. During the game the referee gave two English-speaking players warnings and expelled a Spanish-speaking player, but because of language differences many of the players and many of the spectators didn’t understand what he was doing.
British referee Ken Aston was acting as head referee for the tournament, and after the game he began wondering if there might be a way for a referee to make his decisions clear regardless of language. Thinking about this problem as he was driving home, Aston was stopped by a traffic light. In a flash of inspiration he realized that language issues could be bypassed by using the colors of traffic lights. “As I drove down Kensington High Street, the traffic light turned red. I thought, ‘Yellow, take it easy; red, stop, you’re off’.”
Colored cards (yellow for a warning, red for an expulsion) were introduced during the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. After that, they were quickly adopted by other sports, which added other colors to suit their particular needs. Petanque, for instance, introduced an orange card.
The Wikipedia entry on penalty cards is a good source of information about the uses and meanings of colored cards in a variety of sports.