What’s wrong with the FIPJP rules

There are many, many problems with the FIPJP’s rules. They are badly written, often vague, sometimes incomprehensible. Some important rules are missing. There is no mechanism for soliciting and receiving public feedback on draft revisions. The list is long.

In this editorial I discuss only one — the biggest— of the problems.

The FIPJP’s international rules are not rules for the game of petanque. They are rules for the conduct of FIPJP tournaments.

The FIPJP rules are a mixture of three different kinds of rules.

  1. rules for the game of petanque
    These are the pure, abstract rules of the game, like the rules of chess.

    • At the following mene, the jack is thrown from a circle drawn or placed around the point where it was located in the previous mene…

  2. rules for umpires
    • No claim can be accepted [by an umpire] regarding boules or jack whose positions have not been marked.

  3. rules for the conduct of FIPJP-sanctioned competitions
    • Before the start of a competition, each player must present his membership card [for an FIPJP-affiliated petanque club].

Despite the fact that the FIPJP rules call themselves “the rules of petanque”, they were never designed or intended to be the pure, abstract rules of the game of petanque. From the very first draft by Ernest Pitiot in 1910, the “rules of petanque” were intended to be rules for running tournaments. Today, that means that the FIPJP’s rules are targeted at one specific kind of situation. They are the rules that the FIPJP has developed for itself, for its own use in running its FIPJP-sanctioned tournaments.

This is a problem because every day, around the world, in petanque groups and clubs large and small, most games of petanque are not played in that kind of situation. Most games, for example, are played without an umpire. That means that players need a set of rules of the game that (unlike the FIPJP rules) does NOT assume the presence of an umpire. And that means that the rules of the game (unlike the FIPJP rules) must be clear enough and comprehensive enough that ordinary players can read and understand the rules by themselves, without having an umpire to tell them how to interpret the rules in unusual situations.

Looking at the rules this way makes it clear what is needed.

The FIPJP rules need to be divided up into three separate, self-contained rules documents.

  1. the pure, abstract rules of the game of petanque
  2. the rules for umpires, i.e. guidelines for applying the rules in actual game-play
  3. the rules and procedures for running FIPJP-sanctioned tournaments

I don’t believe that the FIPJP will ever do this. But until it does, my hope is that this editorial will help petanque players to understand the true nature of the FIPJP rules, and help them as they try to figure out how to apply the rules during their every-day play.