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.


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A boule thrown out of turn

Team A has the point. 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. Boule B2 was “thrown out of turn”. What should be done?

examining_the_head


OPINION #1: B2 was thrown contrary to the rules

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. That means that we should apply Article 24.

Any boule thrown contrary to the rules is dead, and anything that it displaced in its travel is put back in place, if its original position was marked. However, the opponent has the right to apply the advantage rule and to declare that it is valid. In this case, the boule pointed or shot, is still alive and anything it has displaced remains in its place.

In our example, nothing was marked, so everything is left in place and the offended team (team A) has the choice of whether or not to leave the offending boule (B2) on the terrain. Then the team not holding the point (which may be either of the teams) plays the next boule.

OPINION #2: B2 was NOT thrown contrary to the rules

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 is NOT a “boule thrown contrary to the rules”.

Even if the boule was not holding, by agreeing that it was, the opponents in effect declared it to be valid under Rule 24. At the end of the mène, the boules can be measured, but not to determine whether the team had played out of turn, only to determine the current holding positions for points purposes.

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 team not holding the point (which may be either of the teams) plays the next boule.

OPINION #3: It depends on the circumstances

Consider these two cases.

  1. The two teams walk to the head and visually inspect the situation. Or perhaps they just stand by the circle and visually inspect the situation from a distance. Team B says, “Looks to me like you’ve got the point.” Team A says, “Yeah, I think so too.” They don’t measure. Team B throws the next boule. (PNZ calls such situations lazy petanque.)
     
  2. After throwing boule B1, the player in the circle makes a snap judgment that he has failed to gain the point. Without asking team A for their opinion, and before team A has time to inspect the head or even shout “Wait a minute,” he throws boule B2.

A player should not throw a boule without reaching an agreement with the other team that it is his team’s turn to throw. In the first case team B got team A’s agreement that team B should throw: both teams made an honest mistake and the game should just carry on. In the second case team B failed to get team A’s agreement on the point (i.e. failed to perform due diligence) and for that reason really did throw B2 contrary to rules.


The bottom line

If none of the locations of boules was marked (as is virtually always the case) then everything except the offending boule is left where it is. The thrown boule is also left where it is unless we consider it to have been thrown contrary to the rules— in that case the offended team has the option (under Article 24) of declaring the offending boule to be dead.

If a “boule thrown out of turn” happens in an umpired tournament, the umpire would probably apply Article 24. (But players in FIPJP-sanctioned competitions are experienced enough not to let this kind of situation ever arise.) For friendly games, the PNZ guidelines seem very sensible— just leave everything where it is and carry on with the game. In my own petanque group, if the out-of-turn boule didn’t move anything else on the ground, we return the boule to its owner and carry on as if it had never been thrown.

“Boules thrown out of turn” situations can be genuinely problematic— boule B2 (thrown out of turn) may alter the game dramatically (and unfairly) in favor of team B. Our only consolation is that such situations usually happen in friendly games among beginning players. In a friendly game, the best response is simply to be astonished and amused by team B’s luck, and then carry on with the game.

The notion of “a boule thrown out of turn” is sometimes invoked in cases of forgotten boules. But I think that is a mistake.


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

The title of Article 24 is “Boules thrown contrary to the rules”. Here is the complete text of Article 24.

Any boule thrown contrary to the rules is dead, and anything that it displaced in its travel is put back in place, if its original position was marked. However, the opponent has the right to apply the advantage rule and to declare that it is valid. In this case, the boule pointed or shot, is still alive and anything it has displaced remains in its place.

If nothing was marked, then this means basically that everything is left in place and the opposing team has the choice of whether or not to leave the offending boule on the terrain.


So what, exactly, is a “boule thrown contrary to the rules”?

The 2008 version of the FIPJP rules included an example of a “boule thrown contrary to the rules”— a boule thrown from a circle “other than the one from which the jack was thrown”. In 2008 players were still drawing circles on the ground, and it was easy to throw from the wrong circle by mistake. But in 2008 plastic throwing circles were also quickly coming into widespread general use. The example became obsolete almost immediately and disappeared in the 2010 version of the rules.

So… the rules provide us with no examples. Let’s try to develop our own list of examples. We will look at other rules about how boules should (and should not) be thrown, and imagine how each of those rules might be violated.

  1. Throwing two or more boules simultaneously. Note that throwing several boules simultaneously is NOT considered to be a case where one boule was thrown legally and the other boules were thrown out of turn. ALL of the simultaneously thrown boules are considered to have been thrown illegally.
  2. Throwing more boules than you’re allowed. This usually happens when a player throws a third boule in a triples game (where each player is allowed only two boules).
  3. Committing a foot fault— throwing while a toe or heel overlaps the circle.
  4. Lifting one foot off the ground before the thrown boule hits the ground.
  5. Throwing while illegally holding an “extra” boule in the other hand (see Article 15).
  6. Throwing the boule from the wrong circle, or from outside the correct circle.
  7. Throwing a boule that has been moistened, or that has something foreign (like mud) clinging to it.

There are two cases that you might expect to be on this list, but are not.

  1. Throwing a boule that belongs to a team-mate.
  2. Throwing a boule that belongs to one of the opposing players.

They are covered by Article 22—”The player who plays a boule other than his own …”

Should throwing a boule out of turn be on this list? See our posts on boules thrown out of turn and dealing with a forgotten boule.