When a leaf hides the jack

[updated: 2018-12-18]
A leaf is hiding the jack. Should we pick up the leaf, or declare the jack dead?

The FIPJP rules of petanque have a hard time dealing with leaves on the terrain.

A leaf blows onto the terrain and hides the jack. What do you do?
You remove the leaf and continue the game. See Article 11 — “If, during a mene, the jack is suddenly[1] hidden by a leaf of a tree or a piece of paper, these objects are removed.”

There is a leaf on the terrain. The jack is hit and rolls behind this leaf, so that the jack is now hidden by the leaf. What do you do?
You declare the jack dead. See Article 9 — “If a jack is still in-bounds of the terrain, but cannot be seen from the circle, it is dead.”

To understand what’s going on here, it’s helpful to distinguish between game objects and foreign agents. Game objects are things that can legally cause physical events in the game. Game objects include the jack, the boules, the terrain and things on the terrain such as leaves and rocks. Foreign agents are things that are NOT game objects— things that blow, roll, fly, fall, bounce, or walk onto (or across) the terrain and interfere with the game. A bouncing football, a boule from another game, a spectator, a player, an umpire, a child, or an animal is a foreign agent if it stops a moving ball or moves a stopped ball or hides the jack. Like this “troublemaker”.
In Case A a leaf blown onto the terrain is a foreign agent, so it should be removed. In Case B the leaf is a game object because it is part of the terrain, so it should not be touched.

Sometimes even the French get it wrong

The French Federation of Petanque (FFPJP ) publishes a document called Code d’Arbitrage — the “Umpire’s Handbook”. Its discussion of Article 11 tries to explain the difference between Case A and Case B but does so with a confusing graphic.

Remove the leaf: the jack is good Dead jack
If, during a mene, the jack is suddenly hidden by a leaf of a tree or a piece of paper, remove the object. If the jack is knocked into a pile of leaves and is no longer visible, it is dead.

Looking at this graphic it is possible to get the impression that if ONE leaf is involved the leaf should be removed, but if TWO leaves are involved the jack is dead. There was, in fact, a report on “Ask the Umpire” of two FIPJP French trainers being asked what should be done if TWO leaves were to blow onto the terrain and hide the jack. The trainers insisted that Article 11 permitted the removal of one– but only one– leaf, and that if TWO leaves blow onto the terrain and hide the jack, the leaves cannot be picked up and the jack is dead. I suspect that the trainers simply misunderstood the pictures in their own Umpires Handbook.

[1] The French expression opiner à means “to consent to”. So the adverb inopinément in Article 11, which I’ve translated as “suddenly”, carries a suggestion of something that happens quickly and without one’s consent.


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