What is “a boule thrown contrary to the rules”?

[updated 2021-12-25]
Players use the expression “boule thrown contrary to the rules” all the time and in a variety of contexts. But what does it really mean? And what should you do if you see one?

Problems with Article 24

The title of Article 24 is “Boules thrown contrary to the rules”.

Except for cases in which these rules provide specific and graduated penalties as outlined in article 35, any boule thrown contrary to the rules is dead and if marked, anything that it has displaced in its travel is put back in place. 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.

There are two serious problems with the way that Article 24 is written. First, it should never have used the phrase “boule thrown contrary to the rules”. If a player steps on the circle while playing, those words direct our attention toward the boule when we should be thinking about the player’s foot and the circle.

Second, it should not begin by saying categorically that the boule is dead… and then a dozen words later say “Oh, it’s not really dead. The opponent can decide whether or not it is dead.” The article should have been written this way.

Article 24 – When a player breaks a rule while throwing a boule
When a player breaks a rule while throwing a boule, if the rule specifies application of the penalties in Article 35 for that kind of infraction, the umpire will apply a penalty. Otherwise, the opposing team may apply the advantage rule and choose either (a) to declare the boule to be valid and leave everything that it displaced where it is, or (b) to declare the boule to be dead and put everything that it displaced back in its original location, if the original location was marked.

There are two categories of “boules thrown contrary to the rules”

Note that Article 24 says that there are two types of infractions (violations of the rules) that a player can commit while throwing a boule. Let’s call them Category A and Category B infractions.

  • Category A infractions are handled by the umpire imposing penalties listed in Article 35.
  • Category B infractions are handled by the offended team applying an advantage rule.

What Article 24 says, basically, is that if a player breaks a rule while throwing a boule, anything that isn’t a Category A infraction is a Category B infraction.

Category A infractions

Category A infractions are listed in Articles 6 and 16.

The players’ feet must be entirely on the inside of the circle and not encroach on its perimeter and they must not leave it or be lifted completely off the ground until the thrown boule has touched the ground. No part of the body may touch the ground outside the circle.Any player not respecting this rule shall incur the penalties as provided in article 35. [Article 6]

Before throwing his/her boule, the player must remove from it any trace of mud or whatever deposit, under threat of penalties outlined in article 35. [Article 16]

For a first infraction, an umpire will typically show a yellow card and give the offending player a warning. For a second infraction, an umpire will typically show an orange card and disqualify one of the offending player’s boules.

Category B infractions

Category B is a residual category— a grab bag of unspecified ways that a player can break a rule while throwing a boule. We don’t know what kinds of things the FIPJP umpires imagined would fall into Category B when they wrote Article 24. The FIPJP rules have only ever included one example of a Category B infraction— a boule thrown from a circle other than the one from which the jack was thrown. That example was added to the rules in 2008 and then removed in 2010. Nobody knows why.

If we search the rules we can find a number of infractions that probably fall into Category B.

  1. Throwing from the wrong circle, that is: throwing from a circle that was drawn on the ground during an earlier mene and never erased.
  2. Throwing more boules than you’re allowed. (After playing in a doubles game, you begin playing in a triples game. You’re still holding three boules. Forgetting that you’re now allowed to play only two boules, you throw a third.)
  3. Throwing your last boule while holding an extra boule in your “off” hand to help with your balance. (See Article 16.)
  4. Throwing two or more boules simultaneously.
  5. Throwing a boule out of turn.
    This is the most important Category B infraction… if it is indeed a Category B infraction. There is significant debate about whether “a boule thrown out-of-turn” really should be considered “thrown contrary to the rules”. (See our post on boules thrown out of turn.)

Note that mistakenly throwing a boule that doesn’t belong to you (i.e. throwing one of your team-mates’ boules or one of the opposing team’s boules or even a dead boule) is not a case of “a boule thrown contrary to the rules.” There is a special rule (Article 23) for handling a mistakenly-thrown boule . (See our post on playing somebody else’s boule.)

If a team commits a Category B infraction, the offended team gets to apply an advantage rule. (That is, the offended team gets to make a choice about what to do next.) The offended team has two choices.

  1. Declare the offending boule to be dead. And then put anything else that was moved and whose original location was marked, back in its original location.
  2. Leave everything where it is and carry on with the game.


This photo shows a number of infractions as a player throws a boule. Which of them are Category A infractions? Which are Category B infractions? Which are neither?
Answers are HERE.


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