Petanque rules 2020 – rules changes

In December 2020, the FIPJP made a number of changes to the international rules of petanque. You can download a copy of the new version of the rules from our archives page or from the FIPJP web site.

This page gives an overview of the changes in the 2020 rules. First I list some minor changes to the rules, then I list the more substantial changes.

Minor changes to the rules

1. A few paragraphs have been moved to slightly different places.  In a few places, the wording of the rules has been slightly improved.  In the French rules, the word for a singles game (tête-à-tête) has been replaced by the word individuel.    In Article 20, the expression terrain jouable has been changed to terrain autorisé.   References to the “penalties” specified in Article 35 have been changed to references to the “sanctions” specified there. References to “the umpire” have been replaced by “an umpire”.

2. In Article 22, a boule moved by a boule in the game is no longer “valid”; now it “remains in its new position.” But in Article 12, a jack moved by a boule in the game is still “valid”.

3. Errors left in the text after the 2016 revision have been corrected. In Article 8, the sentence “If any team proceeds differently, it loses the benefit of the throwing of the jack” has been removed.   The incorrect reference to the “second paragraph of Article 8″ in Article 16, was corrected to “third paragraph”. 

4. Over the years, the umpires have tried to specify— everywhere in the rules— that an illegally-moved boule or jack could be put it back in its original location, provided it was marked.  Now they’ve fixed a few places that they’d missed earlier. [Article 22, Article 23] 

5. Now: the rules explicitly state that boules must be hollow (creuse).  [Article 2]

6. Now: if a disabled player plays with only one foot inside the circle, “the other foot must not be in front of it.

7. Now: no-one, as a test, may throw their boules during a game including away from the lane where they are playing. 

Substantive changes to the rules

1. [Article 6] [Article 12]

Formerly Article 12 said: “To avoid any argument, the players must mark the jack’s position. No claim can be accepted regarding boules or jack whose positions have not been marked.”  This was widely, although not universally, interpreted as a hypothetical imperative— “If you want to avoid arguments, then you must mark the jack’s position.” This rule has been REMOVED from Article 12.

It has been REPLACED by a new rule in Article 6: “The players must mark the position of the jack initially and after each time it is moved. No claims will be allowed for an unmarked jack and the umpire will rule only on the position of the jack on the terrain.” This rule is clearly a requirement, not a hypothetical imperative.  Players must mark the position of the thrown-or-placed jack, and must mark the jack’s location again every time it is subsequently moved. Mike Pegg says that it is the responsibility of the player that threw or placed or moved the jack to mark it. I think that in practice it will be acceptable for the jack to be marked by whichever player is closest to the jack at the time, but if there is ever a problem because the jack wasn’t marked, the player that threw or placed or moved the jack will be held responsible and he/she will be given a warning (shown a yellow card).

2. [Article 7] Throw away all of your old rules about how far the circle or the thrown jack must be from… whatever. The new rules are different.

With respect to circles or jacks in neighboring games:

  • When placing the circle or the jack, the placed circle or jack must be at least 1.5 meters from any jack or circle in a game on a neighboring terrain.

With respect to obstacles:

  • The circle must be at least 1 meter from any obstacle.
  • The jack must be at least 50 cm from any obstacle.

With respect to dead-ball lines:

  • The jack must be at least 50cm from any end dead-ball line.
  • Note that there is no requirement for a minimum distance between the jack and a side dead-ball line.

You can find a helpful explanation of the current state of Article 7, complete with colorful diagrams, HERE.

Why 1.5m?   I think it must be because 3m is the minimum width of a terrain in regional competitions. Half that width is just about the right distance to be effective and workable on a 3m-wide terrain.

Formerly the rule was that a thrown jack must be 1 meter away from a side dead-ball line in normal games, and 50 cm in time-limited games. Mike Pegg says that the reason for changing the rule was to provide “more room to play and a uniform distance for timed and not timed games.”

He also says that “The jack can be thrown up to the side line, but not on or over it.” If that is true, it means that a thrown jack is not like a hit jack, which can straddle a dead-ball line and still be good.

3. [Article 8] If Team A fails to throw a valid jack, the opponents must place it on the terrain at a valid position.  ADDED: “If the jack is not placed in a valid position by the second team, the player who placed it shall be subject to the penalties outlined in article 35, In the event of a repeat offence, a new card will be issued to the whole team, in addition to any cards previously received.”

This change addresses a frequently-asked question about the 2016 rules: “If Albert, on Team A, fails to place the jack in a valid location, should he (or Team A) be penalized, or merely instructed to place it properly?” 

The answer now appears to be— Albert will be given a warning (yellow card).  In case of a second infraction of the same rule by any member of Team A (not just by Albert), the penalty level for each player on Team A will be “upped”; any player without any previous penalties will be given a warning (yellow card); any player who has already received a warning for any offense will be penalized a boule (orange card).

4. [Article 16] REMOVED: “It is forbidden to moisten the boules or the jack.”   Mike Pegg says that the rule was removed “because it is extremely difficult if not impossible for the umpire to enforce/check that each and every player is not using a damp cloth.”

5. [Article 28] The phrase “or disturbs” was added to the first sentence, like this: “The team, whose player displaces or disturbs the jack or one of the contested boules, while effecting a measurement, loses the point. If, during the measurement of a point, the Umpire disturbs or displaces the jack or a boule…” This was probably added in order to increase the parallelism between the two sentences.  But it is problematic. Up to now a player who gently bumps a boule (it rocks in place but doesn’t change location) has been held not to have displaced it. Now I wonder whether or not bumping but not moving a boule counts as “disturbing” it.

6. [Article 32] [Article 33] Formerly a team was eliminated from the competition if it was late by more than an hour; now they will be eliminated if they are more than 30 minutes late.

7. [Article 33, Late arrival of players] ADDED: After the first end of a game… “the following ends are considered to have started as soon as the last boule from the previous end has stopped.”  For a long time it has been the standard practice in time-limited games to deem one end to have finished, and the next end to have started, when the last boule thrown in the end comes to rest.  Now this same criterion has been adopted by the FIPJP rules for the purposes of determining when a late-arriving player may join a game.

Notes on the English translation

In a few places the English translation was wrong and has been corrected.   For example, in Article 5 the teams may now be “required” (not “asked”) to play on marked terrains.

However, in several important places, the FIPJP English translation is still incorrect.

► Article 16 still mistranslates point nul as “dead end” rather than “null point”.

► Article 29 still mistranslates une mene nulle as an end that is “dead” or “null and void”, rather than “scoreless”.

► In a number of cases, the English rules mistranslate terrain autorisé as “authorised terrain”, rather than “the in-bounds area” of a game.