Clearing the circle

Perhaps the least understood of all the rules is this “mystery clause” from Article 6.

The interior of the circle can be completely cleared at any time during the mene, but its state must be restored at its end [i.e. at the end of the mene].

Now, all experienced petanque players are familiar with the taboo on grooming the terrain during a game, and specifically the taboo against removing anything – a leaf or a pebble – from the terrain during a game. As Article 10 says —

It is strictly forbidden for players to press down, displace or crush any obstacle whatever on the playing area.

Being familiar with this taboo, the best interpretation that players can put on the mystery clause is that it creates an exception to the taboo. That is, it allows you to remove a leaf or pebble from the terrain but only if —

  1. The leaf or pebble is inside the circle.
  2. You put the leaf or pebble back in its original position at the end of the mene.

Presumably this exception is to permit a player to temporarily groom the inside of the circle in order to insure a solid footing while throwing.

Still… interpreted this way, the rule is odd. Would a leaf or a few pebbles really impair a thrower’s footing? If a player needs to clear only a leaf or a pebble, why would the rule say that the circle can be “completely” cleared? What exactly does does the word “completely” mean here? And of course the requirement to put the leaf or pebble back in its exact original place seems silly.

Players know that the rule is odd. I’ve seen a few occasions when a player really did remove a twig from the circle. Nobody objects. But the player gets a lot of jokes about, say, marking the position of the twig so he can put it exactly back in its original position after he throws. And of course, he never bothers to do it. That would be absurd.

So— players clearly know that the rule is odd, but they give it the most sensible interpretation that they can.


As it happens, this interpretation of the mystery clause — while completely understandable — is wrong.

During a discussion on his “Ask the Umpire” Facebook group, English international umpire Mike Pegg revealed the true meaning of the rule. (Note that Mike, as an international umpire, is a member of the FIPJP Umpires Commission, the group that writes the rules.)

As for the evolution or development of the rules… each time we get a problem that is not covered by the rules we look to either adapt a current rule or if that is not possible we write a new one.

But the basics of the rules have been designed with the World Championships as first priority. For example:

At the 1996 World Champs (Essen) the terrain was very deep and it was impossible to draw a circle (this was before resin circles). The players were permitted to remove the stones to make a flat circular area. They used their feet to push the stones into a circular shape revealing a hard flatter surface underneath.

At the next rule review, the rules about the circle were modified to allow the removal of the stones.

This worked, but of course it left huge circular craters in the terrain. As Mike says —

Of course no one thought about restoring the area after the mene so we had a few issues to deal with during play.

At the next rule review (2002), the rules about the circle were modified to allow the removal of the stones. But the rules also state that the area must be reinstated after the mene.

So the bottom line is that when Article 6 says

The interior of the circle can be completely cleared at any time during the mene, but its state must be restored at its end [i.e. at the end of the mene].

it means that, if necessary, players are permitted to form a throwing circle by excavating loose surface material to create a circular depression. If they do, the excavated circle must be filled in again at the end of the mene.


Now that the use of plastic circles has become universal in championship competitions, it might seem that the mystery clause is obsolete. But it is not. Even with the use of plastic circles, players may still want to clear the circle.

The 2013 final of the Masters de Petanque, for example, was played on a very rough terrain, very rocky. In the YouTube video during the first mene, at 3:17 you can see a Madagascar player clearing the circle in order to get a sound footing, and at 8:46-8:49 you can (not so clearly) see Philippe Suchaud, who threw the last boule of the mene, smoothing things out after he has picked up the circle.clearing_the_circle_02


Advertisements

Post a comment, or send us a message

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s