When a player must leave during a game

It happens. In the middle of a game, a player must leave. Perhaps there is sudden news of a family emergency. Perhaps he is attacked by a sudden bout of illness. Perhaps he is attacked by a BEAR!  In any event, he has to leave.

When this happens, his teammates are left with the question “How do we carry on with the game?” Sometimes the question is “Bob had to leave. Can Jim play his boules?”

How does the game proceed?

The answer is a definite “It depends.”

If the context is a formal, organized competition, the first option is to replace the player who is leaving with another player. To do this, the affected team would call the umpire, notify him, and get his permission/approval for the change. (In the FIPJP world championships, the triples teams are required to have four members. The fourth member is a backup for just such situations.)

In a formal competition, if no replacement player can be found, the remaining players can NOT play the boules of the departed player. They must continue by themselves, with each player playing only his own boules.

Still… umpires have a lot of discretion in making decisions that allow competitions to continue smoothly. Each situation is unique, and a particular umpire in a particular set of circumstances might see other options.

If the context is a friendly game, the players can be more relaxed about following the letter of the law. The affected team would try to find a replacement player. Failing that, the remaining teammates could increase the number of boules they play.

Just as an umpire has a lot of discretion in making decisions in a formal competition, the players in a friendly game are free to continue in any way that is acceptable to both teams. The players might, for instance, simply stop the game, re-form the teams, and start again.

Where you run into problems is in a friendly but competitive game (no umpire) where one team is happy to proceed in a relaxed way, while the other team feels that “the rules are the rules”. In such a case, there can be disagreement about how to proceed.

At this point we have a human relationship problem, not a question about the rules of petanque. This is tricky territory. But if you can remember that this is not about the rules of petanque, but about getting along with people who you want to keep as friends for a long time, you’ll be OK. You’ll figure out something.

Can I wear sandals or open-toe shoes while playing?

[Revised 2018-07-08]
Since the 2016 revision of the FIPJP rules, Article 39 requires players to wear fully enclosed shoes.

Proper attire is required of players for whom it is forbidden to play without a top [literally: with nude torso] and who must especially, for safety reasons, wear footwear that is completely closed, protecting the toes and heels.

Since most national federations adopt the FIPJP rules without change, this rule is also part of the rules of national federations.

Even before this change to the FIPJP rules, most national federations had (and continue to have) a “Player Code of Behavior” in addition to the official rules of the game. The Code of Behavior may differ from nation to nation, but typically prohibits smoking, drinking, cursing on the terrain, using a cell phone during a game, playing shirtless (torse nu), pets on the terrain, glass containers, e-cigarettes, and high heels. In its Code of Behavior, the Australian petanque federation has required enclosed footwear since at least 2006. The dress code of the French federation has required enclosed footwear since at least 2011.

The requirement for closed footwear has nothing to do with the danger of dropping a boule on your foot— an enclosed shoe doesn’t provide much more protection against a dropped boule than does an open-toe sandal. What is at issue is the tripping hazard posed by strings used to mark lane boundaries. The boundaries of lanes are traditionally marked with strings strung tightly between nails driven into the ground. When the strings have been installed properly they lie very close to the ground and don’t pose any significant tripping hazard for players wearing shoes. But experience has shown that sandals— or shoes of any kind with an open toe or open heel— significantly increase the risk of catching the shoe on the strings and the risk of a serious fall. This is true even when the strings have been installed properly.

The same is true when players play with bare feet— there is a significant risk of catching a string between the toes, tripping, and falling. For that reason, the rules do not permit players to play with bare feet. And for that reason also, you can expect umpires to prohibit fully-enclosed shoes with separate toes, like these.

Questions about the rule

petanque_shoes_half-sandalspetanque_shoes_half-sandalsThe rule requiring enclosed footwear has been in place in many national federations for a decade or more, but it first appeared in the FIPJP rules in 2016. Since then, it has attracted the attention of players, who have raised a lot of questions about the rule. Players like to play in sandals, and the most frequently asked question is “Are shoes like these allowed?”, submitted along with a photo of shoes that are closed around the toes and heels, but open elsewhere.

When international umpire Mike Pegg is asked such a question, his answer is NO. Mike follows the letter of the law. His decision is: “The rules say completely closed. These shoes are not completely closed; therefore they are not allowed.” And that is certainly reasonable. For one thing, it avoids the question: “How closed is closed enough?” Note, however, that in a particular competition, a different umpire might decide differently. (During a competition the FIPJP rules mean what the umpire says they mean, and umpires don’t always agree.)

Another question that players ask is: “In a game where the boundaries are not marked by strings (perhaps the boundaries are marked by chalk or paint, or the game is being played on an open terrain without any boundaries) is it permitted to wear sandals or open-toe or open-heel shoes?” Again, if one follows the letter of the law the answer is NO. But again: umpires in different competitions may rule differently on this question.


(1) In a formal, organized competition where play is strictly by the FIPJP rules, you can expect the umpires to rule that players MUST wear COMPLETELY closed footwear, period.

(2) Simply as a matter of common-sense safety, if you are playing on a terrain marked with strings, you should never play barefoot or wearing open-toe or open-heel shoes or sandals.

(3) If you’re playing an informal, friendly game on a terrain without strings, feel free to relax in those sandals. 🙂

If you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing completely enclosed footwear, you may be permitted to participate in a formal, organized competition. It is up to the competition organizer to make the decision. Get a letter from you doctor, and contact the competition organizer in advance, to get advance permission to participate.

A boule thrown out of turn

[updated: 2021-12-24]

Consider the following situation.

Team A has the point. Team B throws boule B1. B1 gains the point but Team B doesn’t realize that, so they throw boule B2. The teams then walk to the head and measure all of the boules. They discover that B1 had actually gained the point. That means that after B1 was thrown, team A, not team B, should have thrown the next boule. B2 was “thrown out of turn”. What should be done?


Everyone agrees that B2 was thrown out of turn. But what should be done next depends on whether or not B2 was thrown contrary to the rules.

Some umpires say that it was. Following Article 16, which says that “it is the team that does not hold the point that plays,” they consider a boule played out-of-turn to be a boule thrown contrary to the rules.

Other umpires say that a boule thrown out-of-turn should not be considered to have been thrown contrary to the rules. In 2008 Petanque New Zealand (PNZ) published rules interpretations saying that a boule thrown out of turn is NOT thrown contrary to the rules. In 2012 John Degueldre, Director of Umpiring for Petanque New Zealand, followed up by issuing the following ruling.

Boules played out of turn are not considered as an infringement to the rules [i.e. as "boules thrown contrary to the rules"] but indeed as a mistake. Players making such a mistake penalise themselves by reducing or losing the boule advantage. In conclusion, players do not incur any penalty, and boule(s) are valid and stay in place. But it is still the player or team not holding the point that must play the next boule.

The practical effect of this interpretation is that, after a boule is thrown out-of-turn, everything is left where it is, and the game carries on.

The bottom line

I think that most FIPJP umpires consider a boule thrown out-of-turn to have been thrown contrary to the rules. Note that this does not automatically mean that the boule is dead, or that the umpire declares the boule to be dead. The boule is a Category B infraction of the rules, and the offended team may apply the advantage rule described Article 24. In most, but not necessarily all, cases, the offended team will choose to declare the boule to be dead.

Personally, I favor Petanque New Zealand’s position. A boule thrown out-of-turn hurts the team that threw it and does no harm to the opposing team. No harm; no foul. (This position has been adopted by the rules of Petanque Libre.)

Multiple boules thrown out-of-turn

Players sometimes ask what should be done if Team B throws several boules (say: B2, B3, and B4) before it is discovered that B1 had the point all along. The answer is that you should treat all boules thrown out-of-turn in the same way, no matter how many of them there are.

Dealing with a forgotten boule

Players and umpires sometimes invoke the concept of a boule thrown out-of-turn when dealing with a forgotten boule. See our post on Dealing with a forgotten boule.