Foot faults – What to do?

When a player or team breaks the rules in some way, we are confronted with two questions.

The first question is the How to Continue Question. “What should the players do, so that they can carry on with the game?” This question has two possible answers. (a) “Undo the illegal event.” (b) “It is not possible to undo the illegal event, so just leave everything where it is and carry on with the game.”

The second question is the Penalty Question. “What penalty, if any, should an umpire impose on the offending player or team?”

In non-umpired games players need to deal only with the How to Continue Question, but in umpired games the umpire must deal with both questions. An umpire must ask himself, “In this case, should I apply a Continue Rule? a Penalty Rule? both?” This can be a tricky question, especially in the case of foot faults, where the Penalty Rules interact with the Continue Rules. This was illustrated in a recent discussion of a question on Ask the Umpire. The question was

A player lifted a foot while throwing. His thrown boule successfully shot away an opponent’s boule. The umpire gave the player a warning (yellow card) but let the situation on the ground remain unchanged. Did the umpire rule correctly?

International umpire Mike Pegg’s answer was NO. Mike’s opinion was that “The umpire should have disqualified the boule and put back the original boule because the player who lifted his foot should not be given this unfair advantage.” FPUSA umpire Gary Jones’s answer was YES. “Since Article 6 clearly states that Article 35 should be applied for the infraction of lifting one’s foot while throwing, and Article 24 clearly states that it is applicable only where the rules do not provide for specific and graduated penalties as outlined in Article 35, I would rule exactly as the presiding umpire did.”

Gary’s surprising (but I believe correct) answer points out the way that Penalty Rules can interact with Continue Rules. Here is the text of the relevant rules. I have underlined the important clause in Article 24 noted by Gary.

Article 6
The player’s feet… must not leave the circle or be completely lifted off the ground until the thrown boule has touched the ground… Any player not respecting this rule shall incur the penalties specified in Article 35.

Article 24 – Boules thrown contrary to the rules
Except for cases in which these regulations specify the application of specific and graduated penalties in article 35, any boule thrown contrary to the rules is dead, and anything that it displaced in its travel is put back in place, if those objects had been marked.

In short, Article 24 says

Normally, if a boule is thrown contrary to the rules, the boule is dead and the effects of the thrown boule should be undone, if possible. BUT… if in a particular situation the rules specify the imposition of an Article 35 penalty, impose an appropriate penalty and then leave everything where it is and carry on with the game.

So the umpire’s decision in this case was correct. The umpire gave the player a warning (yellow card) but let the situation on the ground remain unchanged.

This interpretation of Article 24 raises the question of what it means for a boule to be “thrown contrary to the rules”. (Read other posts on this topic.) As far as I can tell, the FIPJP rules contain only two articles that both (a) cover situations in which a boule is thrown contrary to the rules, and (b) specify that the penalties in Article 35 should be applied.

Article 6 covers foot faults. The player’s feet are not entirely inside the circle when throwing, or the player lifts a foot (or touches the ground outside the circle with any part of his body) before the thrown boule hits the ground.
Article 16: The player fails to remove mud from his boule before throwing it.

In these cases an umpire may give the player an appropriate penalty (probably a warning), but the game on the ground should be allowed to remain as it is.

The Penalty Rules haven’t always interacted with the Continue Rules in this way— the underlined clause in Article 24 hasn’t always been there— it was inserted into the rules as part of the 2016 rules revisions. I assume that the FIPJP International Umpires Committee knew the implications of what they were doing, and that they inserted the clause because they wanted what it implied. But old habits die hard for umpires who have been umpiring for many years under the old rules. I expect that different umpires will mentally merge the old and new texts of Article 24 and come up with different ways of interpreting the rule about foot faults. Take Mike Pegg for example.

In the past, Mike Pegg has ruled that if a foot fault gave the player an unfair advantage then BOTH Article 6 AND Article 24 should be applied— the player should be given a warning AND the thrown boule should be declared dead and illegally-moved balls put back. Before the 2016 rules revision this was a reasonable way to interpret the rules, especially in cases where committing a foot fault clearly gave a player some advantage (e.g. a player stands on the side of the circle in order to get a better line of play around a blocking boule). (On the other hand, it opens a can of worms about whether or not a player gained an advantage from a foot fault. Does a player gain any advantage by stepping on the front of the circle? On the back? By lifting a foot?)

The new clause in 2016 changed that. Now Article 24 seems pretty clearly to prohibit applying both Article 6 and Article 24 for a foot fault. Mike Pegg may still apply both of them, but other umpires do not. The umpire whose decision prompted the question on “Ask the Umpire” didn’t. In July 2017, during the final of the Masters de Pétanque at Clermont, an umpire gave Dylan Rocher a yellow card for a foot fault, but he didn’t disqualify Dylan’s thrown boule. So Mike’s interpretation of the rules seems to differ from other umpires.

Mazlan Ahmad has suggested that it might be a good idea to revoke the new clause. “Without that clause, enforcement of Article 24 for all foot-fault infractions becomes mandatory— just like the days before the 2016 rules revision.” We’ll have to wait for the next revision of the FIPJP rules to see if the international umpires agree with him.

Note that Dylan’s right foot is lifed completely off of the ground and outside the circle. The thrown boule is still too high in the air to be seen in this picture. See THIS or THIS.

A boule thrown out of turn

[updated: 2021-06-12]
Consider the following situation.

Boule A1 is on the ground. Team B throws boule B1. B1 gains the point but the players don’t realize that. Mistakenly believing that team A still has the point, Team B throws boule B2.

The players 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?

The answer to this question depends on whether or not we consider boule B2 to have been thrown “contrary to the rules”.

Some players and umpires hold that it was. Article 15 says that “it is the team that does not hold the point that plays,” so it seems obvious that a boule played out-of-turn should be considered a boule thrown contrary to the rules. Note that this doesn’t mean that the boule is dead. It means that the offended team may apply the Advantage Rule in Article 24, and choose either (a) to un-do the event by removing the offending boule and (if possible) returning everything else to its original location, or (b) to leave everything where it is and carry on with the game.

Other players and umpires, however, see the matter differently. In 2008, the national umpires for Petanque New Zealand (PNZ) issued a set of rules interpretations that held that a boule thrown out of turn was NOT thrown contrary to the rules. Following this lead, in 2012 John Degueldre, Director of Umpiring for Petanque New Zealand, issued 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 just carries on.

The bottom line

In a competition, most FIPJP-certified umpires will, I think, rule that a boule thrown out-of-turn was thrown contrary to the rules, and that the offended team may apply the Advantage Rule in Article 24.

Personally, I agree with Petanque New Zealand. It’s not clear what should count as being “thrown contrary to the rules”, and I see no reason to use Article 24 to further punish the hapless offending team. They’ve already been punished sufficiently. When they threw their boule out-of-turn they actually benefitted their opponents by increasing the opponents’ boule advantage.

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

[updated 2021-06-11]
What do you do when one team forgets that it has an unplayed boule?

There are a lot of boules on the ground. Your team (team A) has the point and unplayed boules. You ask the opponents (Team B) if they have any more boules to play. They look around, don’t see any, and say “No, we’re out.” So your team plays a boule. Then one of the opponents says “Ooops! I made a mistake. Bob still has one boule left!”

What should you do?

Team B had an unplayed boule and was given the opportunity to play next, but refused to do so. Team B therefore was at fault and may not play its forgotten boule. It makes no difference that Team B acted because of a mistake rather than a deliberate desire to cheat. Team B’s forgotten boule is dead.

Note that allowing Team B to throw its forgotten boule would allow Team B to gain an advantage from breaking the rules— it would steal the boule advantage from Team A. On the grounds that a team should never be able to gain any advantage by breaking the rules, Team B may NOT play their forgotten boule.

Note that the situation would be different if Team A had simply gone ahead, without asking Team B if they had any unplayed boules. That would be an ordinary case of a boule thrown out of turn.

What is a “boule thrown contrary to the rules”?

[updated 2021-06-12]
The title of Article 24 is “Boules thrown contrary to the rules”.

Except for cases in which these rules provide specific and graduated penalties as outlined in article 35, any boule thrown contrary to the rules is dead and if marked, anything that it has displaced in its travel is put back in place. However, the opponent has the right to apply the advantage rule and declare it to be valid. In this case, the boule pointed or shot, is valid and anything it has displaced remains in its place.

Note that if a boule was thrown “contrary to the rules”, that doesn’t automatically mean that the boule is dead. It means that the offended team can choose what to do about the situation. The offended team has two options. (1) They can choose to un-do the event by picking up the offending boule and returning everything else to its original position (as much as possible). Or: (2) They can choose to leave everything where it is and carry on with the game.

When the FIPJP international umpires committee wrote this rule, what did they mean by a “boule thrown contrary to the rules”? The answer is— nobody knows. The only time that the FIPJP rules included an example of what was meant by a “boule thrown contrary to the rules” was between 2008 and 2010. The example was of a boule thrown from a circle other than the one from which the jack was thrown. We don’t know why the umpires inserted that example in the 2008 rules, or why they deleted it in 2010.

Perhaps if we examine the rules governing the throwing of boules, we can come up with a list of ways in which a boule might be thrown contrary to the rules. Perhaps something like this…

  1. Throwing two or more boules simultaneously.
  2. Throwing more boules than you’re allowed.
  3. Throwing while a toe or heel encroaches on the circle.
  4. Lifting a foot before the thrown boule hits the ground.
  5. Throwing while holding an “extra” boule (see Article 15).
  6. Throwing from the wrong circle, or from outside the correct circle.

Note that throwing a boule that belongs to a team-mate or an opposing player isn’t on this list. It has its own rule in Article 23.

It is a matter of debate whether a boule thrown out-of-turn should be considered “thrown contrary to the rules”. See our posts on boules thrown out of turn and dealing with a forgotten boule.