Playing penalties and conduct penalties

I’ve noticed that on his Ask the Umpire Facebook forum Mike Pegg has started using two new terms— or at least terms that I’ve never noticed before— “playing penalty” and “conduct penalty”. I don’t know the origin of these terms, but I think that they are useful. Basically, the new terms highlight an important distinction in faults and penalties, and the terms make it easier to describe and talk about them.

The basic idea is that there are two kinds or categories of “faults” (ways to break the rules) and correspondingly there are two kinds of penalties— playing penalties for playing faults, and conduct penalties for conduct faults.

The first appearance of these terms that I noticed was on February 16, 2023, in a response to a question by Axel Gillman. Axel asked “How long are penalty cards valid in a tournament or cup game?” Mike’s response was

It depends on the reason for the penalty. Generally speaking a “playing penalty” lasts for the game in question. However, “conduct penalties” will remain in force the the full tournament, even if that event is over a number of days or stages. A player may be disqualified for a game or for the tournament, depending on the reason for the disqualification.

About three months later, on May 4, Mike used the terms again, this time in response to a question by Raymond Ager.

The opponents have the point, but they are out of boules. Our shooter is in the circle and about to shoot when an opponent says, “Excuse me, I want to measure to see if we’re holding two,” and proceeds to measure. Normally the opponents shouldn’t move or speak. What is the ruling ?

Mike’s response was

If you had an umpire at your event, he/she should award a warning to the player who interrupted your shooter. It is worth noting that this is considered a “conduct” fault, which is serious, as a repeat of this or any other conduct fault would result in the player being disqualified from the competition— see the closing paragraph of article 17.

Just for the record, the title of Article 17 is Behaviour of players and spectators during a game, and the last paragraph is “The players who do not observe these regulations could be excluded from the competition if, after a warning from an umpire, they persist in their conduct.”

Judging from these two entries, I would summarize the differences this way.

  • “Playing” penalties are awarded for violations of the rules of the game. Normally, a first offense would earn a warning (yellow card), while a second offense would get a boule disqualified (orange card). Such a penalty will last only until the end of the game.
  • “Conduct” penalties are awarded for violations of the rules of conduct. Normally, a first offense would earn a warning (yellow card), while a second offense could get a player disqualified. The disqualification could be for the remainder of the game or even for the remainder of the competition.

The distinction between playing penalties and conduct penalties is not (or at least not yet) perfect. For one thing, it isn’t written down in any FIPJP document, so at least for now we don’t know if other umpires will recognize and use the distinction. For another, although the distinction seems to be intuitive, it is not sharp— I think there are cases where it isn’t clear whether a particular fault should be considered a playing fault or a conduct fault.

Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We shouldn’t fault a move in the right direction for not achieving perfection on Day One. Bottom line— I think that this distinction IS a useful tool for helping players and umpires to think and speak more clearly about the rules.


2 thoughts on “Playing penalties and conduct penalties

  1. I became aware of this distinction during the European Championships doubles and tete-a-tete in 2022 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. A player who, on purpose and out of frustration, kicked the circle away from its position, and a player who before the end was over picked up his boules and put them back in his bag, were said by the French umpire to have committed a fault of ‘comportement‘ (behaviour) and that the yellow card would hold for the subsequent game(s).

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