Article 35: new rules about exceeding the time limit

Revised: 2019-04-15
When the FIPJP released a new version of the rules in December 2016, umpires and players discovered that two sentences (marked [a] and [b], below) had been inserted into Article 35. (In the interests of clarity, I’ve replaced the words “yellow card” with the italicized word “warning” in the new sentences.)

For non-observation of the rules of the game the players incur the following penalties:
1) A warning, which is indicated officially by the showing by the umpire of a yellow card to the player at fault.
[a] However, a warning for exceeding the time limit is imposed on all the players of the offending team. [b] If one of these players has already been given a warning, he will be penalized by disqualification of a boule during the mene in progress or for the following mene if he has no more boules to play.
 

These two sentences caused an immense amount of confusion among Francophone and Anglophone players and umpires. A month later, responding to the confusion, the CNA (the French National Umpires Committee) issued a tortured attempt to clarify the new rules by introducing the new concept of a “collective” infraction of the rules, and “collective” yellow cards (but not collective orange cards!).

Introducing new theoretical concepts, however, was not an effective solution, and the CNA’s attempt foundered in incoherence. In its attempt, in fact, the CNA had overlooked a much simpler solution. All of the confusion was caused by the (bad) way in which sentence [a] had been written. An easy remedy would have been to rewrite sentence [a], so that the two new sentences, together, say this—

The first time that any member of a team exceeds the time limit, a warning is imposed on each individual member of the offending team. If one of these players has already been given a warning, he will be penalized by disqualification of a boule during the mene in progress or for the following mene if he has no more boules to play.
 

Note that this rule applies only to the first time in a game that a team commits a time-limit infraction. Perhaps an individual player hesitated too long in the circle. Perhaps the whole team spent too much time discussing strategy among themselves. It doesn’t matter. The first time (and only the first time) that a team exceeds the time limit, each individual team member is given a warning. It’s just that simple.

A traditional, unwritten rule-of-thumb for umpires is— First offense gets a warning; second offense gets a disqualified boule. The purpose of sentence [b] is to write that guideline into the rules as an explicit requirement for umpires.

The CNA comments to which I referred earlier show that the umpires of the CNA are seriously confused about the meaning and uses of colored signal cards. But if we remove all references to cards from those the comments, what’s left is a residue of interesting case descriptions. What these cases show is that the CNA is very consistent about applying the rule: First offense gets a warning; second offense gets a disqualified boule.

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The following examples are for a team composed of three players A, B and C.
The term “individual infraction” means any infraction of the rules other than an infraction of the time-limit rule.

Case 1
No player has received a warning for any infraction of the rules.
Player A exceeds the time limit.
DECISION
The umpire gives a warning to each player: A, B, and C.

Case 2
Each of the players has been given a warning for exceeding the time limit.
Player A commits an individual infraction.
DECISION
The umpire disqualifies one of player A’s boules.

Case 3
Each of the players has been given a warning for exceeding the time limit.
Player A exceeds the time.
DECISION
The umpire disqualifies one of player A’s boules.

Case 4
Player C commits an infraction of a rule other than the time-limit rule.
Player B exceeds the time.
DECISION
The umpire gives a warning to players A and B.
The umpire disqualifies one of player C’s boules.

Case 5
Player A commits an individual infraction.
Player B commits an individual infraction.
Player C exceeds the time.
DECISION
The umpire disqualifies one of player A’s boules.
The umpire disqualifies one of player B’s boules.
The umpire gives a warning to player C.

Case 6
Player A commits an individual infraction.
Player B commits an individual infraction.
Player C commits an individual infraction.
Player A exceeds the time.
DECISION
The umpire disqualifies one of player A’s boules.
The umpire disqualifies one of player B’s boules.
The umpire disqualifies one of player C’s boules.
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Case 7
Each of the players has been given a warning for exceeding the time limit.
The team exceeds the time limit for a second time, by conferring among themselves as a group for more than a minute.
DECISION
The umpire disqualifies one of the team’s boules.
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Actually, there are only 6 cases on the CNA’s list— Case 7 is my own addition. It is remarkable that Case 7 is not on the CNA’s list, because it is the most controversial case of all.

In Case 7, all three players are what the CNA calls “direct authors” of the infraction— each player personally participates in the act that breaks the rule. In my opinion, in Case 7 an umpire who wishes to follow the letter of the law and wishes to apply the rules consistently will disqualify one boule for each of the offending players— three boules in total. But that of course would be a very harsh penalty. What will actually happen is that umpires will shy away from ruling that way, and will disqualify just one of the team’s boules (see international umpire Mike Pegg’s ruling HERE). That’s why, as the decision for Case 7, I have specified that “The umpire disqualifies one of the team’s boules.”

At this point, players and umpire will of course ask: “Which boule does the umpire disqualify?” For the answer to that question, see our post on What does it mean to “disqualify a boule”?

Three players exceeding the time limit as they discuss what to do next