This post was originally written in 2015. In 2020, Article 6 of the FIPJP rules was modified to include the stipulation that "The players must mark the position of the jack initially and after each time it is moved." This means that in the future the Pushed Jack Question will rarely, if ever, arise in umpired competitions. It may still, of course, occur in casual games.
The Pushed Jack Question is one of the perennial questions about the rules of petanque— players never stop asking it. The question is actually two questions.
The first boule hits and moves (“pushes”) the jack.
Can team B challenge the jack?
If the jack is challenged, how do the teams determine the validity of the jack?
The answers to these two questions are—
- YES, Team B can challenge the jack.
- The validity of the jack is determined by measuring the distance between the circle and the jack’s current (“pushed”) location. If the jack is between 6 and 10 meters from the circle, it is valid.
- This is different from a case in which the jack was thrown, its location was marked, and then it was pushed by the first boule. In such a case the teams measure to the marked location. Some umpires say that the proper procedure is to place (another) jack in the marked location, and then measure to that jack, but that seems a bit pedantic.
- When players ask the Pushed Jack Question they are usually concerned about the jack’s distance from the circle. But the Pushed Jack Question can also be raised when there are concerns about the jack’s distance from a dead-ball line or a pointing obstacle. Note that, regardless of why the question was raised, the procedure for answering it is the same.
This answer to the Pushed Jack Question has been the FIPJP’s official, but unwritten, position since 1996, when the FIPJP Technical Committee discussed it during a meeting at the World Championships in Germany. It is the answer French umpires have given for years, and it is the answer given in the FPUSA Official Rules Interpretations for Umpires (2015).
One reason that players continue to ask the question is that for many years international umpire Mike Pegg maintained (on his “Ask the Umpire” Facebook group) that a pushed jack could not be challenged. His position was that the requirements for a valid throw of the jack apply to a THROWN jack, not a MOVED jack. Since the jack’s original position (before it was moved) was not marked, there is no way to prove that its original position was not valid. Team B therefore has no grounds on which to base a challenge. This changed in May 2016 when FIPJP president Claude Azema sent a directive to FIPJP umpires, making the official FIPJP position clear and explicit. However, it was not until March 2017, in response to a question on “Ask the Umpire”, that Mike reported that he had reversed his position because of Azema’s directive. Mike now agrees with the FIPJP’s (still unwritten) official position.
Other questions about challenging the jack
To “challenge the jack” is to request that the game be paused so that it can be verified that all of the requirements for a valid jack (which are specified in Article 7) are being met. Article 8 describes the the Challenge Rule— the procedures for challenging the jack. Here is a simplified restatement of the rule.
After the jack has been thrown, either team may challenge the validity of the jack at any time until it (the team) has thrown its first boule. After a team has thrown its first boule, it no longer has the right to challenge the jack. Neither team may challenge the jack after the jack has been measured and shown to be valid. A team that manually places the jack may not challenge it.
Some players like to throw the jack and the first boule so quickly that the opposing team has no time to raise a challenge. The Challenge Rule allows the opposing team to challenge the jack even after the first boule has been thrown.
There are a number of questions that come up about the Challenge Rule.
Q1: Can team B challenge the jack after verbally accepting it?
Team A throws the jack. The player says “Hmmm. What do you think? Too long?” The captain of Team B says “Looks good to me.” Team A points the first boule. It is very good. Team B begins to think that the jack may be long after all. Can team B still challenge the jack?
Answer: YES, team B still has the right to challenge the jack. The FIPJP rules do not recognize any way to verbally accept the jack, so (according to the FIPJP rules) when the captain of team B says “It looks good to me,” he is merely expressing his personal opinion; he is not waiving his team’s right to challenge the jack.
To verbally accept the jack and then challenge it strikes some players as gamesmanship or even poor sportsmanship. That might be true in friendly play, but it is not illegal— no FIPJP rule is being broken. Don’t let it distract you. Stay calm and carry on.
Q2: Can team A challenge the jack AFTER throwing the first boule?
Team A throws the jack. Team A then points the first boule. Team A then begins to have doubts — perhaps the jack was thrown too long. Can team A challenge the jack?
Answer: NO. After a team has thrown its first boule, it no longer has the right to challenge the jack. Team A has thrown its first boule. Its window of opportunity for challenging the jack has closed.
Q3: Can team B challenge a jack that is pushed beyond 10 meters by the first boule, if the jack’s original position was measured?
Team A throws the jack. They measure the distance. It is 9.95m— valid. Team A then points the first boule. The boule hits the jack and pushes it. Now the jack is clearly more than 10 meters from the circle. Can team B challenge the jack?
Answer: NO. Neither team may challenge the jack after the jack has been measured and shown to be valid. Players sometimes cite a mythical rule that “the second team has a right to play to a jack between 6 and 10 meters”, and argue that the jack is invalid because it is now more than 10 meters from the circle. But in actuality there is no such rule. In this situation, the jack has been measured and shown to be valid. It therefore cannot be challenged.
Q4: Can team B challenge a jack that is pushed beyond 10 meters by the first boule, if the jack’s original position was marked?
Team A throws the jack and marks it. Team A then points the first boule. The boule hits the jack and pushes it. Can Team B challenge the jack?
Answer: YES. Team B can challenge the jack. The thrown jack’s validity can be determined by measuring the distance from the circle to the marked position.
Q5: “The players must mark the position of the jack initially and after each time it is moved.” Which team is responsible for doing the marking?
Answer: The team that throws or places the jack is responsible for marking its location at the beginning of the mene. Thereafter, if a team throws a boule that directly or indirectly moves the jack, that team is responsible for marking the jack’s new location. A team may not play against a jack whose location is not marked, so if the jack is moved by the wind, the team that plays the next boule is responsible for insuring that the jack’s new location has been marked before they play their next boule.
Tips for avoiding problems with challenging the jack
When your team throws the jack, play in a courteous manner. After throwing the jack, pause. Ask the other team if it looks OK to them, and wait for their answer. This gives the other team a chance to challenge the jack if they want to.
Some teams are in the habit of verbally accepting the jack, and then later challenging it. If you’re playing such a team, accept the fact that what they are doing is perfectly legal. If you let yourself become upset over the opposing team’s “poor sportsmanship”, you shoot yourself in the foot as far as “the mental game” is concerned. So be mellow; keep calm and carry on.
 For Mike’s old position, see THIS and THIS.
For Mike’s revised position as of March 2017, see THIS.
Unfortunately, there appears to be no way to obtain a copy of Azema’s 2016 directive, so the FIPJP’s official position is still undocumented.
Suppose that team A has thrown the jack, and played its first boule. Team B challenges the jack. After measuring, the jack is shown to be at more than 10 metres. Team A claims that their first boule has moved the jack, but team B maintains that the jack is still in its original position, and thus should be replayed. The umpire is called. He can only base his decision on the current situation (since there are no markings). Consequently, he can only decide that the jack is too long, and should be replayed. Team A has no way to prove that the jack has indeed been moved.
Yes. I think it is the possibility of such a situation that determined the ruling that the appropriate way to handle such a situation is to measure to the pushed (or perhaps only allegedly pushed) jack.
I don’t think that was the intention. My guess is that it was a poorly thought out change – dropping the obvious ”Both teams should agree the jack is valid before playing a boule” was a fatal mistake and as we can see, STILL causes confusing. Instead of dealing with the normal situation first, this has been forgotten and only the ‘exception’, a moved jack, is mentioned. Rules should always first deal with the ‘normal’ case and, afterwards, consider the exceptions.
In answer to the previous comment, you could just as easily argue, ”Team B has no way of proving that the jack was not displaced.”
All very silly, which only serves to illustrate there is a problem and this rule is long overdue for revision.
This rule has been discussed many times and continues to cause confusion- both with players and also umpires. The rule
The rule should require that both teams agree the jack is valid, before playing a boule. Interesting, that was the wording in the 1972 rules – why was it changed???
Logically, it’s only the position of the THROWN jack that can be challenged, not the DISPLACED jack. But some French umpires say, if the position of the jack wasn’t marked, we will measure to the current position. This is an incorrect interpretation – they are measuring the DISPLACED jack, not the THROWN jack.
In the unlikely event that a team disputes that the jack was moved, then the umpire should warn the team to mark the position.
The answer to Ray’s question (“Why was the wording in the 1972 rules changed?”) can be found in our rules archives. (See https://petanquerules.wordpress.com/the-rules-of-petanque-archives/#1984)
In 1972, each national federation had its own set of national rules, and the FIPJP had its own set of international rules. That rule occurs in the 1972 version of the FIPJP rules. In 1984, the FIPJP dropped its earlier set of rules and adopted and adapted the French national rules to create a new set of international rules. All of the national federations fell in line behind the FIPJP’s new set of rules. Since then, the national federations basically use the FIPJP rules as their own national rules. That’s how the rule about asking the opponents was lost. It was part of the set of old FIPJP rules that was discarded in 1984.
Gary Jones and Raymond Ager supplied a number of very helpful comments on the original version of this post. I revised the post considerably in light of those comments, to the point that those comments are no longer applicable. So I’ve deleted most of them. But I haven’t forgotten them! Thanks Gary and Ray! 🙂
Very helpful. A couple of comments:
Q3– If team A measured without assistance or verification by team B, and did not also mark the position, I would rule that team B could still challenge the jack under the same principle stated in Article 26. The opponents always have the right to measure.
As to avoiding problems with Article 8, bullet number 3, if I were called in such a situation, I would advise team B that it’s team A’s decision as to whether or not to mark the jack. Team B should not intervene until after team A’s first boule. At that point, if team A failed to mark a jack toss that was potentially too long, it will still be too long after being pushed. Therefore, no problem for team B.
On the other hand, if team A failed to mark a jack that was potentially too short, it will either still be too short after being pushed, or it will now be a legal distance. So, again, no problem for team B. You may want to argue that team A’s first boule would then likely rest on or near the jack. While this may sometimes be true, playing the game in this fashion satisfies Article 17’s prohibition against interrupting or distracting an opponent during the time allowed for throwing a boule.
Thanks, Gary! Useful comments! 🙂
Is there a rule relating to foot positions, i.e. flat on the ground or tiptoes?
No. The only requirement is that some part of each foot is touching the ground. Many squat pointers play with their throwing foot flat on the ground and the toe of their off foot touching the ground while the heel is raised. Also, some players tend to raise their heels and come up onto their toes at the end of their throw. It’s all good.