Exceeding the 1-minute rule

Revised 2022-08-15

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 added to Article 35.

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 yellow card 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 yellow card, 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.

This change prompted many questions by players. Strangely, umpires often answered those questions with talk of “team” infractions and “team” penalties (Mike Pegg), and talk of “collective” infractions and “collective” penalties (the French National Umpires Committee). The problem with these answers is that in petanque there are no “collective” offenses or penalties. There are only individual offenses and penalties. Article 35, for example, begins by saying that a warning is indicated “by the umpire showing a yellow card to the player at fault.”

What the new sentences in Article 35 did was to add a new rule about individual penalties.

  • The first time that any member of a team violates the 1-minute rule, the umpire will give an individual penalty to each player on the team.

This is what the umpires meant when they talked about a “team” or “collective” penalty. They were referring to situations in which an umpire must award an individual penalty to each of the players on the team.

The new sentences in Article 35 raised questions penalty escalation. Penalty escalation is the vague tradition that repeated offenses should be punished with increasingly severe penalties. (For example, the unwritten rule-of-thumb for umpires is— First offense gets a warning; second offense gets a disqualified boule.) So players naturally asked— “What happens if one of the team’s players exceeds the 1-minute time limit for a second time?”

The answer was— The first time that a player exceeds the time limit, the umpire gives each member of the team a warning (a yellow card). Thereafter, if a player breaks any rule (including the 1-minute rule), the umpire shows an orange card, and disqualifies a boule, for only that particular player. This was confirmed in January 2017, when the CNA (the French National Umpires Committee) released a memo that confirmed that “There is no such thing as a collective orange card. An orange card can be given only to the direct author of an infraction.” In August 2019, Mike Pegg confirmed this ruling on his “Ask the Umpire” Facebook group[1].

But the story doesn’t end there. Sometime in 2021 something changed.

The 2021 “Penalties” document issued by the CEP Umpiring Commission (Mike Pegg, Patrick Grignon, and Sjoerd Pietersen) says (in the introduction) that if a team exceeds the 1-minute limit for a second time, “the penalty would be the disqualification of one boule (orange card) per player— 3 boules in a triples game.” (See THIS or THIS.) In May 2022, Mike Pegg ruled on “Ask the Umpire” that all three players should have a boule disqualified for a second violation of the 1-minute rule. A little later, in July, a Masters de Pétanque umpire actually ruled that way.

It is hard to say how many umpires share this new interpretation of Article 35. For example, as of June 2022, the French National Umpires Committee still says that there is a collective card only for the first infraction of the 1-minute rule. See Annexe 32bis HERE.

[1] See international umpire Mike Pegg’s ruling (dated August 15, 2019) HERE.

“In the first case it is the team that is given the warning , this applies to each member of the team. For the second “time” offence a boule is disqualified. This would normally be the boule just throw after exceeding the time limit. However, if the umpire stepped in, after the one minute and before the player had thrown their boule, it would be this boule, about to be played, that he/she would disqualify.”

See also our post on What does it mean to “disqualify a boule”?

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


Exceeding the 1-minute rule – CNA guidelines

Article 35 of the 2016 revision of the FIPJP rules contains a new rule for “collective” penalties for exceeding the time limit for throwing the jack.

A warning for exceeding the time limit is imposed on all the players 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.

At the end of January 2017 The CNA (Commission Nationale d’Arbitrage, the French National Umpires Committee) issued a memo attempting to clarify the rule.
Our archived copy of the memo can be found HERE.
My English translation can be found HERE (docx) or HERE (pdf).

As of June 2022, the CNA position is still that there is a collective yellow card only for the first infraction of the 1-minute rule. See Annexe 32bis HERE.

Decisions of the FIPJP National Umpires Committee
28 and 29 January 2017 in Marseille

Article 35
Different cases concerning exceeding the time (during the course of a single game) Assume a triples game with a team composed of players A, B and C.

No player has a yellow card.
Player A exceeds the allowed time.
► There is a collective yellow card (one for Player A, one for player B and one for player C).

After [the team has received] a collective yellow card,
► For the player who breaks the rules (whatever the infraction) the next boule played or about to be played is disqualified, and the disqualification is indicated by an orange card.

After a collective yellow card,
player B exceeds the time, so this is a second collective infraction.
► In this specific case, the offending player (B) has a boule disqualified and receives an orange card. But his partners do not receive an orange card and they do not have any boules disqualified because there is no such thing as a collective orange card.

Only player C has received a yellow card for an infraction other than exceeding the time (e.g. encroaching on the circle, sweeping, etc.)
and player B exceeds the time.
► A and B receive a yellow card and
C has a boule disqualified, but he does not receive an orange card (he is not the one who committed this new infraction). (Note that an orange card can be given only to the direct author of an infraction.)

Player A and player B have each received an individual yellow card for an infraction other than exceeding the time.
and player C exceeds the time.
► Players A and B each have a boule disqualified, but they do not receive an orange card.
(Note that an orange card can be given only to the direct author of an infraction.)
Player C receives a yellow card.

Players A, B and C have each received a yellow card for individual infractions,
and the time-limit is exceeded.
► Three boules are disqualified (one per player) and the player who exceeded the time-limit receives an orange card.

– Always make sure you know who made the infraction.
– Know which players of the team have already been penalized during the game.
– Distinguish between a collective infraction (time exceeded) and an individual infraction.
– Remember that there is no collective orange card.

2016 petanque rules changes

Here is a list of the important changes to the rules of petanque made by the FIPJP in 2016. The 2016 FIPJP rules of petanque are available on the FIPJP web site and the Rules of Petanque web site.

  1. Article 10a has been renamed to be Article 11, and all subsequent articles renumbered. So the rules now have 41 articles, rather than 40.
  2. Article 3: The weight of the jack must be between 10 and 18 grams. (This means that synthetic jacks, which weigh 22g, are no longer permitted.)
  3. Article 5: The opening sentence has been changed from “Petanque is played on all terrains,” to “Petanque is played on all surfaces.”
  4. Article 6: Folding circles (cercles pliables) are permitted but only if they are of a model and rigidity approved by the FIPJP. (Folding circles that are approved by the FIPJP will be marked “Agréé FIPJP”.)
  5. Article 6: The throwing circle must be marked before the jack is thrown.
  6. Article 6: If a player picks up the circle when there are boules still to be played, the circle is replaced but only the opponents are allowed to play their boules.
  7. Article 7: The team winning the toss or the previous end will have ONE and only one attempt to throw a valid jack. If the thrown jack is not valid, the jack is given to the opposing team which then places the jack in any valid location on the designated terrain.
  8. Article 7: The throwing circle must now be placed at least two meters from any other active circle.
  9. Article 7: During time-limited games only, for a thrown jack, the required minimum distance from a SIDE dead-ball line (not from an END dead-ball line) is reduced to 50cm.
  10. Article 8 contains the following sentence: “Before the jack is given to the opposing team for them to place it, both teams must have recognized that the throw was not valid or the Umpire must have decided it to be so. If any team proceeds differently, it loses the right to throw the jack.” The words have not changed, but the second sentence must be given a new interpretation in light of the changes to the rules for the throw of the jack.

    If Team A throws a jack that appears to Team B to be long, and Team B picks the jack up before Team A agrees that it actually was long, an umpire may rule that Team B has lost the right to place the jack, and give the jack to Team A, which will then place (not throw) it. It is likely that the second sentence will be revised in the next version of the rules.

  11. Article 10: “Sweeping” (the ground with a foot) in front of a boule to be shot is now specifically mentioned as a violation of the rule against changing the terrain. (This is a clarification of, rather than a change to, the existing rule.)
  12. Article 24: The following clause was inserted before the beginning of the rule: “Except for cases in which these rules provide specific and graduated penalties as outlined in Article 35,…” [DISCUSS]
  13. Article 26: Players must stand at least two meters away from an umpire while he is measuring.
  14. Article 27: If a player picks up his boules from the playing area while his partners have boules remaining, they will not be allowed to play them. [DISCUSS]
  15. Article 31: It is now no longer the responsibility of each team to check and verify the opposing team’s licenses, boules, qualifications to play in the competition, etc.
  16. Article 33: A mene is considered to start when the jack is thrown, regardless of whether or not the throw was valid.
  17. Article 35: In order to simplify the penalties, the penalty of disqualification of TWO boules has been eliminated.
  18. Article 35: The rules now officially recognize the use of colored signal cards.
  19. Article 35: The discussion of warnings has two new provisions. (1) A yellow card for exceeding the time limit will be imposed on ALL of the players of the offending team. (2) If one of these players has already been given a yellow card, that player will be penalised by disqualification of a boule.

    These new provisions are poorly written and it will probably be some time before umpires agree on how to interpret them. One likely outcome is this— In the past, umpires usually treated a time-violation as an individual offense. Thus, if player A on Team T exceeded the time limit, the umpire would give A a warning. Later, if player B on Team T exceeded the time limit, the umpire would give B a warning. Now, with these new provisions, it seems likely that if player A on Team T exceeds the time limit, the umpire will give Team T a warning. Later, if player B on Team T exceeds the time limit, the umpire will penalize Team T by disqualifying one of the team’s boules.

  20. Article 39: Correct dress is required of the players, specifically: (a) it is forbidden to play without a top (i.e. with a bare torso) and (b) for safety reasons, the players must wear fully enclosed shoes. In addition, it is forbidden to smoke (or use an e-cigarette) and to use a mobile phone during a game.

American players should note that the FPUSA rules have changed in another way.
Following a new policy, the FPUSA has adopted the 2016 international rules “as written” as its national rules.

Adopting the international rules “as written” means doing away with the italicized modifications and addendums added to the FPUSA version over the years. Doing so also means our players will learn to play per the international rules, nothing more, nothing less. [Mike] Pegg’s advice to the FPUSA is to publish the rules as adopted in December 2016 by the FIPJP and separately publish clarification for the more ambiguous and broadly interpreted aspects of the rules or for issues unique to the FPUSA. We agree with Mike and are already in the process of updating the “2015 Interpretation’s” currently in use by the federation.

Previous versions of the FPUSA rules also differed from the FIPJP rules in the wording of the Puddle Rule in Article 9. With the adoption of the FIPJP rules “as written”, that difference no longer exists.

Deliberately picking up one of your own boules

In the 2016 revision of the FIPJP rules, a paragraph was added to the end of Article 27.

Article 27 – Picked-up boules
It is forbidden for players to pick up played boules before the end of the mene.
At the end of a mene, any boule picked up before the agreement of points is dead. No claim is admissible on this subject.
▶If a player picks up his boules from the game terrain while his partners have boules remaining, they will not be allowed to play them.◀

Paragraph 3 was a good idea. Before it was added, if a player deliberately picked up one of his/her own played boules, the boule was dead and that was that. The player achieved his goal (to remove the boule) and there were no negative consequences for the player.

But… why would a player ever want deliberately to remove one of his own boules?

Suppose that you are playing on team B when one of the following situations arises.

  1. Team A has thrown all of their boules, while your team still has four boules to play. The front is almost completely open, just waiting for you to point those four boules and score four points. But there is a problem. One of your own boules, B1, is sitting exactly on the ideal donnée for your pointing throws. When it was first thrown it was a great blocking boule, but now it is blocking you rather than the opponents. You wish it was out of there.
  2. Your team has one point one the ground. If you could shoot away opposing boule A1, your team could score four points. But boule B1, one of your own boules, is right behind A1, kissing it. You’re familiar with Newton’s cradle and you know the physics of this situation. If you shoot A1, B1 will go flying and A1 will hardly move. You wish boule B1 wasn’t there, so you could shoot A1.


In these situations it would be to your advantage to pick up and remove your own boule. It would be worth it even if the umpire gave you a warning. In a friendly game there’d be no umpire; you wouldn’t even get a warning. Soon, perhaps, the idea would spread that removing one of your own boules was a recognized and acceptable part of the game.

The new paragraph in Article 27 fixes that problem. The new rule eliminates any possible benefit from deliberately picking up one of your own boules.

The new rule also creates a problem for umpires. Suppose that Ben, the captain of Team B, (accidentally?) kicks boule B1. Now the umpire must decide whether Ben’s action was or was not deliberate. If it was an accident, then boule B1 stays where Ben kicked it. But if Ben deliberately kicked B1 (in effect, removing it from the terrain), then Team B’s remaining unplayed boules are dead. But the umpire is not a mind reader. How can he know whether Ben’s action was deliberate or accidental?

Or should the umpire strictly follow the letter of the law and rule that kicking a boule is not the same thing as picking it up, so the new rule does not apply. If he does, then we’re back where we started. Ben can’t pick up his boule with impunity, but he can “accidentally” kick it away.

2016 rules – Sweeping


Questions about what a player is or is not permitted to do in order to fill a hole became more complicated with the release of the 2016 version of the rules. In the previous (2010) version of the rules, the last sentence of Article 10 was—

For non-observation of the rules above, the players incur the penalties outlined in Article 34 “Discipline”.

In the new (2016) version of the rules, the last sentence of Article 10 became this. Note that the underlining is mine.

For not complying with this rule, especially in the case of sweeping in front of a boule to be shot, the offending player incurs the penalties specified in Article 35.

What the new rule says, basically, is that starting January 1, 2017, in FIPJP sanctioned competitions, “sweeping” in front of a boule to be shot will be treated as an infraction of the rules and punished in some unspecified way. The problem with this new rule is that— like so many other rules—it uses a technical term without defining it. What is “sweeping”?

Sweeping in front of a boule to be shot

To understand what “sweeping in front of a boule to be shot” means, it helps to know a little bit about the history of Article 10.

Between 1964 and 2008, Article 10 specified that players could fill only the hole that had been made by the boule that had just been played. The rule said, in effect, that players got only one opportunity to fix a hole— immediately after the hole had been created. If they didn’t fix the hole then, the hole had to remain in the terrain, unfilled, for the remainder of the game. The effect of the rule was to condition players to fill every hole immediately after it had been created. If you watch Youtube videos of games played before 2008 you can see it clearly. As soon as a boule is thrown and it is determined which team is to play next, one of the players of that team goes to the hole and smooths it out.

Under these conditions, it makes no difference what your team is planning to do next. Regardless of whether you are going to shoot or point, your team always fixes the hole before throwing its next boule. Usually the team’s pointer is the most compulsive about filling the hole. He develops a habit, almost a compulsion. He walks to the middle of the terrain, studies the ground, and almost as if in a trance he sweeps a foot across the terrain to eradicate a hole. He does this even if the hole is so small that it is almost invisible. Even if no hole is visible, he sweeps the area with a foot, just to be sure that the terrain is level. And the umpires are OK with that. They think— there is almost always some kind of hole, if only a small one, and the difference between a very, very small hole and a non-existant one isn’t worth making a fuss about.

And that’s the way the game was played for more than 40 years.

In 2008, Article 10 changed. Now players could fill one hole, period. It need not have been made by the last boule played. If you are a pointer and you see a hole near your donnée, you can go ahead and fill it without worrying about whether it was created by the last boule played.

With time, players begin to see filling a hole as something you do in preparation for the next throw rather than something you do as an automatic response to the last throw. Younger players become increasingly critical of older players who automatically sweep the terrain when there is no real reason to do so. They are especially critical of players who fill a hole and then go on to shoot. Questions start to be asked. If you’re planning to shoot, and not point, why should you fill a hole? Is it even legal to fill a hole if you are planning to shoot? Was there really a hole there, or were you just smoothing out the terrain? Even if there was a hole, weren’t you sweeping your foot much wider than was needed just to fill the hole?

In 2015, in some French competitions, umpires experiment with enforcing an “if you’re going to shoot you can’t fill a hole” rule. And in 2016 the FIPJP’s international rules acquire a new clause that identifies “sweeping in front of a boule to be shot” as a punishable infraction of the rules.

What is “sweeping”?

One definition of “sweeping” might be— moving around the dirt of the terrain with a sweeping motion of the leg and foot. That captures the physical motion but misses the crucial point— it is illegal to make any change to the terrain that goes beyond the minimum necessary to fill a hole. A better definition of sweeping would be— (a) using a sweeping motion of leg and foot (b) while pretending to be filling a hole (c) in order to change the terrain in an illegal way. Sweeping in this sense is and always has been illegal. But— if sweeping has always been illegal— what was the reason for adding the new clause to the text of the rule?

The FIPJP rules are a mixture of game rules and umpire’s guidelines. The new clause is an umpire’s guideline. It is a signal to FIPJP-certified umpires everywhere that starting on January 1, 2017 they are expected to enforce the rules against sweeping. The days when umpires turned a blind eye to sweeping and compulsive hole filling are over.

Changes in enforcement policy are always difficult, and this change will be especially difficult. Deciding how much sweeping is acceptable for hole-fixing and how much is too much will always be a judgment call. Umpires may be reluctant to crack down on sweeping unless it is flagrantly obvious. On the other hand, if they crack down very hard, before filling a hole players might start asking umpires to come onto the terrain to verify that there is a hole to be filled. They might start asking umpires to fill holes, to forestall any possible charge of sweeping. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next few years.

Throwing the jack (2016 rules)

One of the biggest changes in the 2016 version of the FIPJP rules is a change to the rules about throwing the jack. throwing_the_jack_madagascar_style2
Previously the rule was that the team that threw the jack (let’s call it team A) was allowed three attempts to throw a valid jack. (A valid jack, in this context, is a jack that comes to rest between 6 and 10 meters from the circle.)  If after three attempts team A had not succeeded in throwing a valid jack, it turned the jack over to team B, which was also allowed three attempts.  Basically, the two teams alternated in making three attempts until one of the attempts succeeded.

In the 2016 version of the rules, the team that throws the jack is allowed ONE attempt to throw a valid jack.  If it does not succeed, then the jack is turned over to the opposing team, which then has the responsibility of placing the jack.

Article 6: Start of play and rules regarding the circle

The team that won the right to throw the jack – either after the draw or because it scored in the previous mene – has the right to only one attempt [to throw the jack]. If it is not successful, the jack is given to the other team, which places it [the jack] wherever it wants within the conditions specified in the rules.

In the second sentence, note the use of the word “places” rather than “throws”. Team B is responsible for getting the jack on to the terrain in a valid location.  There are no rules about how team B does it.  The simplest and most reliable procedure is for a player to walk to the desired location, lean over, and use his hand to place the jack on the ground in the desired location.

The reason for this change is to speed up games.  According to Mike Pegg, each year at FIPJP tournaments there are problems with games taking too much time.  The one-throw-of-the-jack rule was used for a number of years in time-limited games, and it helped those games to proceed more quickly.  Trials of the rule in non-time-limited games were conducted at a number of European and world events, and a noticeable amount of time was saved each day.  Most teams quickly adapted to the new rule and were in favor of the change. Having passed these tests, the rule was officially adopted.

This change to the rules, like most changes, has generated questions. 

How does this affect the rules about challenging the jack?

There really are no significant changes to the rules about challenging the jack.  I’ve unpacked the new rules into six basic rule-scenarios. 

  1. After team A throws the jack, either team may challenge it.
  2. After team A throws the jack (apparently successfully) and throws the first boule, team A loses the right to challenge the jack.
  3. After team A throws the jack (apparently successfully) and throws the first boule, team B still has the right to challenge the jack. If the thrown jack is challenged and found to be invalid, team A is considered to have failed in its attempt to throw the jack, and team B places the jack.
  4. After team A throws the jack unsuccessfully, and team B places the jack, team B loses the right to challenge the jack.
  5. After team A throws the jack unsuccessfully, and team B places the jack, team A still has the right to challenge the jack. If team A challenges the placed jack and the placed jack is discovered not to have been placed in a valid location, team B is considered not to have accomplished its assigned task of placing the jack in a valid location and must place it again.  Basically, team B must keep placing the jack until they get it right.
  6. After team A throws the jack unsuccessfully and team B places the jack, and team A throws the first boule, team A loses the right to challenge the jack.

If team B places the jack, but places it in an invalid location (too short or too long), what should we do?

Scenario 5 answers a Frequently-Asked Question about the new rule— “If team B places the jack, but places it in an invalid location (too short or too long), what should we do?” The answer is— Team B should place the jack again. And they should try to do it properly this time! In an umpired game, placing the jack in an invalid location probably won’t earn team B a warning from the umpire. But it might. If (say) team B has repeatedly shown a casual attitude toward breaking the rules, the umpire might decide that it is time for a wake-up call and award a yellow card.

NOTE that the new rule does not answer The Pushed Jack Question. It has finally been resolved, but not by a change in the written rules (see THIS).

Can team B measure before placing the jack?

The answer is— if (say) team B wishes to place the jack at exactly 6m or 10m, they are allowed to measure before placing the jack. See THIS.

How does this change affect The Stepping-Back Rule?

It makes everything clearer. The old rule raised a lot of questions. “How many times can a team move the circle back?” “When does a team lose the right to move the circle back?” And so on. With the new rules, those questions go away.

  • When team A (the team that throws the jack) is ready to throw the jack, if the jack cannot be thrown to the maximum distance in any direction, team A can “step back” the circle in the traditional way.
  • When team B (the team that places the jack) is ready to place the jack, if the jack cannot be placed at the maximum distance in any direction, team B can “step back” the circle in the traditional way.

Criticisms of the new rule

There have been some serious criticisms of this change to the rules.

  • The change was made for the wrong reason— to improve the viewing experience of the TV-watching audience, rather than to improve the game itself.
  • It discourages cultivation of jack-throwing as a special skill, which some players treasure as a fine art.
  • It discourages aggressive attempts to throw the jack close to 10 meters. Players will begin throwing the jack to the bland and boring distance of 8 meters, rather than the exciting and challenging distance of 9.9 meters.

These criticisms seem to me to have some merit, but how serious they are— that is, how much the rule change will affect the way that players actually play— remains to be seen.

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.