Is Geologic’s “red jack” legal?

Is Geologic’s “red jack” legal?

The short answer is NO.


There are two ways to play. On the one hand there is play strictly according to the FIPJP rules. On the other hand there is friendly “social” play. The red jack is not approved for use in FIPJP-sanctioned competitions, so in that sense it is not legal. (See below for a discussion of the terms “legal” and “approved”.)

On the other hand, for friendly, social play you should feel free to use the red jack as long as the other players are agreeable. The red jack was designed to be a “leisure” or “recreational” jack, so if anybody in your group is playing with leisure boules, your group should have no problem using the red jack. The red jack does meet the size and weight requirements for jacks, just as leisure boules meet the size and weight requirements for boules.

The long answer, if you’re interested, goes something like this.

Let’s start with some information about the jack itself.

  • Decathlon was selling the red jack internationally as early as 2019, but it only appeared on the American Decathlon web store in the spring of 2021.
  • The distinctive feature of the red jack is that it is paramagnetic, that is, you can pick it up with a magnetic boule lifter.
  • Structurally, it is different from Obut’s “black jack”, which is made of hard epoxy resin mixed with iron filings. The Geologic red jack is made out of a different material (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and it has a solid iron core which gives it 50% of its total weight.
  • The red jack is 29.5mm in diameter and weighs 17g.
  • The Decathlon webpage for the red jack clearly states— Use restriction: This jack cannot be used in official competitions.

The primary reason that the red jack cannot be used in FIPJP-sanctioned competitions is that synthetic jacks (i.e. non-wooden jacks, whether or not they are paramagnetic) are not allowed in FIPJP-sanctioned competitions unless they are FIPJP-approved. The red jack is not FIPJP-approved. Therefore it is not allowed in FIPJP-sanctioned competitions.

Another way of saying the same thing is that the red jack is deliberately designed to be a “leisure” or “recreational” jack, just as some boules are deliberately designed to be leisure boules. So, as I noted earlier, if anybody in your group is playing with leisure boules, there is no reason not to use the red jack.

“Legal” vs “approved”
The FIPJP requirements for jacks are contained in two documents. The first is the official FIPJP international rules for the sport of petanque, which determines whether or not a particular model of boule or jack is “legal” for competition play. The second is Fabricants de Boules: Labels des Boules et Buts agréés en compétition, which determines what models of boules and synthetic jacks are “approved” for competition play. In order for you to be allowed to use a boule or a synthetic jack in competition play, the boule or jack must be both “approved” and “legal”.

Note that it is possible for a synthetic jack to be “approved” but not “legal”. (Obut’s black jack, although approved, is not legal because it weighs more than the maximum allowed weight of 18g, as specified in the rules of the sport.) Petanque rules wonks are surely asking whether the red jack is “legal” in the sense of— Is the red jack (given its size and weight) acceptable under the rules for the sport of petanque? The answer to that question is YES. Just as leisure boules meet the size and weight requirements for boules, the red jack meets the size and weight requirements for jacks.

I will close with a bit of gossip. A few customers have complained (in customer reviews) that their magnetic boule lifters won’t pick up the red jack. A customer service rep has replied that “There is indeed a competitor’s boule lifter that doesn’t work very well with these jacks. We will fix that in a second version.” If this is something you experience, you can complain to Decathlon and get a refund. But my advice would be to get a better boule lifter or make your own.


Petanque rules quiz 001

Two players are playing singles.  In the middle of the second mène (end, round), the score is 1-0. This happens.
A) Is the jack dead or alive?
B) Assuming the jack is dead, which player plays the next boule? Why?
C) Assuming the jack is alive, which player plays the next boule? Why?

This one is just for fun. There are 5 questions; two points per question. Ten points wins you bragging rights. Entries will be judged on correctness, completeness, and clarity. Submit your answers in a comment. This post will be edited to provide the correct answers and name the winners.

Quiz closes midnight, Wednesday April 28, 2021. The quiz is now closed. But if you would like to challenge yourself, you’re still free to take it. The answers are available HERE.

We need guidelines as well as rules

If an organization issues a document Rules of the Sport of X, that organization should also issue another document— Guide to the Interpretation of the Rules of X. Here’s why.

In order to be effective, a set of rules governing any activity needs to be both concise and precise; both short and clear. Every sentence should be phrased carefully and be grammatically correct. Slang and verbosity, which may cause confusion, should be rigorously avoided. Every word should be the right word, every word should count, and two words should never be used where one would do. Technical terms should be introduced explicitly, defined carefully, and used consistently. No rule should be stated twice— especially if it is worded differently in different places.

With a novel or a newspaper or a magazine article we read along, get the general gist of things, and that is all we need. We’re not used to reading documents that are written in the tight, compressed, precise way that a good rules document is written. That is why, in addition to rules documents, we need rules guides.  The purpose of a rules guide is to translate the compressed language of a rules document into the kind of language that we normally use in everyday life, so that players can more easily understand the full meaning and implication of the rules.

A rules guide document is a collection of comments on the rules. One thing that a comment can do is to point out implications of a particular rule. For example, when a single word (“only if” rather than “if) has significant implications for the meaning of a rule, a comment can point that out. Sometimes the full significance of a rule can be seen only when it is placed in a wider historical or cultural context— comments can provide that wider context. In some situations there may seem to be no applicable rule, or multiple contradictory applicable rules— a rules guide can note the existence of such situations and explain how to deal with them.

A rules guide will almost certainly need to be revised more frequently than a rules document. With time, players will inevitably find new ways to be confused by the rules, and will come up with new questions about the rules. The rules (if they were well-written) won’t need to be revised, but the rules guide will need to be updated to deal with such new confusions and questions as they emerge.

Note that a rules guide is not the same thing as an umpire’s guide. A rules guide contains comments on the rules of the game. An umpire’s guide contains guidelines, advice, and instructions for umpires, telling them how to perform their roles as umpires. A petanque umpires’ guide, for instance, would help umpires in deciding when to impose penalties and which penalties to impose; how to reach a decision when teams offer conflicting stories about what happened; and so on.

Ideally we would have three separate documents— the rules, a rules guide, and an umpire’s guide. In the case of petanque what we actually have is only the FIPJP’s international rules in which umpire guidelines are intermixed with rules of the game. There is no separate FIPJP rules guide or umpire’s guide. Some national federations also issue a “rules interpretations guidelines for umpires” that contains rules guides and umpire’s guidelines.

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.

Disqualifying a boule & excluding a player

What does it mean to “disqualify a boule”?

Depending on the context, “disqualifying a boule” can mean one of two quite different things. The key to recognizing the two contexts lies in the expression “disqualification of the boule played or to be played.”

The first context is one where we want to disqualify a boule that has already been played. Suppose, for instance, that a player has already received one warning for a foot fault— for standing on the circle while throwing. Now, the umpire is watching him closely. Again, the player stands on the circle while throwing his boule. The umpire shows an orange card and tells the player that the boule that he has just thrown is disqualified because of his repeated foot fault. In that context, we can point to a specific boule and say “THAT is the boule to be disqualified.” That specific boule is declared dead and removed from the terrain.

The second context is one where we want to disqualify a boule that has not yet been played. Suppose, for instance, that a team has already received one warning for violating the 1-minute rule. Now they are standing around and discussing strategy. Their discussion takes more than one minute. The umpire approaches the team and informs them that one of the team’s boules is now disqualified because of the team’s second infraction of the 1-minute rule. But… which boule should be disqualified? Suppose that the team has 4 unplayed boules. How does the umpire pick out which boule he is going to point to and say “THAT is the boule to be disqualified”?

The answer is that he doesn’t. In this situation, “disqualifying a boule” doesn’t mean picking out a particular boule for disqualification. It means reducing the number of boules that the penalized team (or player) is allowed to throw in the future. As Mike Pegg said during an exchange on “Ask the Umpire”—

If the team has 4 boules and are then advised that 1 boule is disqualified, they then have 3 boules.

They may have 4 unplayed boules in hand, but since one of those boules has been disqualified, they are now allowed to throw only three boules. Which boules they choose to throw is up to them. If the penalized team has no more boules to throw, the number of boules that they can throw in the next mene is reduced.
As Article 35 says—

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.

Excluding a player

After disqualifying a boule, the next level of penalty is the exclusion of a player from the rest of the game. The procedures for excluding a player are similar to the procedures for disqualifying a boule.

On the one hand, the umpire may walk up to a specific player and say, “YOU are excluded from the rest of the game.” On the other hand, the umpire may walk up to the captain of a triples team and say, “For the rest of the game, starting with the next mene, your team is allowed to play with only two players.” Note that excluding a player means reducing the number of players, and playable boules, available to the team. If a member of a triples team is excluded, the team’s fourth member (its alternate/substitute/backup player) cannot take his place. The team must soldier on with only two players and the boules (two boules each) belonging to those players.

Closeup of a petanque boule disqualified in the previous mene.

Closeup of a petanque boule disqualified in the previous mene.

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.

This post is an excerpt from the next edition of A Guide to the Rules of Petanque, now in preparation.



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.

Placing the circle after the jack has died or left the terrain

robot_soccerArticle 7 contains the rule about placing the circle – the circle is drawn or placed (a) on the assigned terrain (b) around the place X on the assigned terrain where the jack was located at the end of the previous mene.

Traditionally, if the jack is sitting on the terrain in location X and then hit and knocked out of the terrain, at the beginning of the next mene the circle is placed around location X, even if X was not marked. This rule is perfectly suited to playing in the traditional way, on an unbounded terrain. You can find the rule in Article 12.[1]

Umpires generally operate on the principle that nothing can be restored to a location that wasn’t marked. They are also used to umpiring games played on bounded terrains, where it is relatively easy to see and remember the place where a hit jack crossed a boundary string. Umpires have therefore invented an unwritten rule to replace the traditional practice. The rule is—

If during the previous mene the jack was knocked out of the assigned terrain, the circle is placed on the assigned terrain as close as possible to the last place that the jack was still alive.

This means that if the jack died because it went out-of-bounds, the circle is placed on the assigned terrain as close as possible to the place that the jack crossed the dead-ball line. That is, it will be placed flush to, just inside, the dead-ball line. If the jack ended up alive on a neighboring terrain, then the circle is placed on the assigned terrain as close as possible to the jack’s final location on the neighboring terrain. In umpired play, this is how an umpire will rule.[2]

Note that the jack can also die without ever leaving the assigned terrain.

  1. It can end up floating in a puddle of water.
  2. It can be hidden from view by a feature of the terrain.
  3. It can be hit to a location on the far side of a patch of dead ground.
  4. It can be hit and come to rest more than 20 meters, or less than 3 meters, from the circle.[3]

In all of these cases, the jack hasn’t left the assigned terrain, so Article 7 applies. The circle is “drawn or placed around the place where [the jack] was located in the previous mene”. If, for example, the jack died because it was knocked back and came to rest 2 meters from the circle, then the circle is placed 2 meters from the circle’s previous location.

Even if the jack was on the assigned terrain when it died, other rules still apply. You still have to place the circle a meter away from any throwing obstacle. If the jack died because it ended up floating in a puddle, you don’t put the circle down in the puddle. The puddle is a throwing obstacle, so the circle is placed a meter away from the edge of the puddle. Similarly, if the jack ended up hidden under a pile of leaves, you don’t put the circle down on the pile of leaves.

Footnotes  ▲

[1] Article 12 says— "If, during a mene, the jack is displaced onto another game terrain ... At the following mene the teams continue on the terrain that was assigned to them and the jack is thrown again from the place it occupied when it was displaced..." Article 12 doesn't tell us what to do when a jack goes out-of-bounds because Article 12 was designed for play on unmarked terrains where there is no such thing as out-of-bounds.

[2] There is an interesting Youtube video where Pascal Milei shoots the jack out-of-bounds and you can see Marco Foyot placing the circle in the traditional way around location X. The umpire comes onto the terrain and corrects him. The umpire points Marco to the place at the foot of the lane where the jack went out-of-bounds, and shows him where to place the circle, close to the dead-ball line.

[3] Note that knocking the jack farther than 20 meters from the circle is usually possible only on an unbounded terrain, but theoretically it could be possible on a bounded terrain if the terrain was large enough.

Who should measure?

Here is a question that regularly appears on petanque forums.

Our team did this. Then the opposing team did that. So the situation on the ground was such-and-such. Who should measure?

Often the question is posed by an unhappy (or puzzled) player after an opposing team has asked his team to perform tactical measurement for them.

Here is what the FIPJP rules say.

Article 25 – Measuring of points
The measurement of a point is the responsibility of the player who last played or one of his teammates. The opponents always have the right to measure after one of these players.

You might think that this rule is merely a convenience rule, like “In this country we drive on the right (or left) side of the road.” But there is more going on here than mere convenience.

Note the wording of the first sentence… “measurement of a point is the responsibility of the player…” Measurement is something that a team does not want to do. That’s because it is risky. If, while measuring, a player accidentally moves a ball or the jack, that creates a problematic situation. Also, there are penalties.

The point is lost by a team if one of its players, while making a measurement, moves [displaces] the jack or one of the contested boules.

Teams therefore try to avoid measuring. In an umpired game, they will ask an umpire to measure. But in a game where no umpire is available, Article 25 requires the team that played last to make the measurement.

Note that there are three different reasons for measuring— tactical, practical, and scoring.

Scoring measurement is measurement that is done during the agreement of points. It is done after all the boules have been thrown, and its purpose is to determine which team won the mène, and to determine how many points that team scored.

Practical measurement is measurement that is done while both teams still have boules to play. You might say that its purpose is to determine which team has the point. But it is more accurate to say that its purpose is to determine which team will throw next. (After one team has thrown all its boules, there is no need for practical measurement. We know that the opposing team throws next, regardless of which team has the point.)

Tactical measurement is measurement that is done while at least one team still has boules left to play. Its purpose is to help one team— the team that is about to throw the next boule— to decide what their tactics should be. In tactical measurement, the question to be answered is often— Which boule is the second-best boule? The third-best boule?

Article 25 should be invoked for scoring measurements and for practical measurements— that’s pretty clear. The thing that triggers questions about Article 25 is its applicability to tactical measurement. Here are two typical questions.

  1. There are boules on the ground. Team A throws and gains the point, so it is now Team B’s turn to throw. Team A has the best boule, but it’s hard to tell which team has the second-best boule. Team B wants to know if they have the second-best boule. If they do, then they will shoot; otherwise they will point. So Team B asks Team A to measure for second-best boule.
    Team A, of course, doesn’t want to measure. So Team A wants to know if Article 25 really requires them to measure— to put themselves at risk— in order to help Team B make a tactical decision. (See THIS)
  2. Team B points a beautiful first boule. Team A throws all six of their boules, trying to beat it. After all of Team A’s boules have been thrown, it is not clear whether or not Team A’s last boule is holding the point. It is now Team B’s turn to throw. Team B wants to know if Team A has the point so they can decide whether to point or to shoot. So Team B asks Team A to measure for the point.
    Again, Team A wants to know if Article 25 requires them to measure in order to help Team B make a tactical decision. (See THIS and THIS)

The answers to these questions are NO and NO. Article 25 is meant to be used for scoring measurements, or to decide which team will throw next. But in both of our two examples there is no question about which team will throw next. Therefore both of these situations involve tactical measurement, and the team that threw last is NOT required to make the measurement.

The bottom line

Article 25 does not apply to tactical measurement. No team is required to make tactical measurements for the opposing team.

Of course, a team is permitted to make tactical measurements for the opposing team. And if they are asked, they might be willing to do so out of friendship, courtesy, or sportsmanship. But it is probably better for all concerned if they refuse the request and remind the opposing team that Article 25 doesn’t apply to tactical measurement. There is no reason in the rules why the opposing team should not make their own tactical measurements.

There is one last issue about tactical measurement that is worth noting. Article 20 says—

Once the jack is thrown, each player has the maximum duration of one minute to play his boule. This short period of time starts from the moment that the previously played boule or jack stops or, if it is necessary to measure a point, from the moment the latter [the measurement] has been accomplished.

As Fredy Harke notes, it is generally accepted that this rule applies to practical measurement but not to tactical measurement. That is, the one-minute clock stops ticking for a practical measurement, and restarts at zero after the practical measurement has been made and it is clear which team throws next.

But the one-minute clock does not stop ticking while a team takes time to make a tactical measurement. Once it is clear which team throws next, that team has one minute to decide on its tactics and to throw its boule. If their decision-making process involves making tactical measurements, that’s fine… but the one-minute clock doesn’t stop while they do it.

Consulting with the team coach

Periodically, questions appear on petanque forums about how, and whether, a team can consult with its coach during a game.

Before we get too deep into this topic, let’s immediately settle two basic points.

First, players ARE allowed to confer with their coach during a game, and coaches ARE allowed to offer advice to their players. HOWEVER, there are appropriate procedures for doing this, which we’ll discuss in a minute.

Second, in competitions on marked terrains the only people allowed on the terrain during a game are the players and the umpires. Coaches, like other spectators, are not allowed on the game terrain. This rule is often simply assumed, although sometimes it is explicitly written into tournament rules. Sometimes the coach is allowed to sit inside the crowd-control barriers. More frequently, coaches, managers, and alternate team members have a special area reserved for them in the spectators area.

In this tournament, the competition organizers have allowed coaches to sit inside the steel crowd-control barriers, as long as they stay outside of the wooden surround and don’t come onto the terrain proper.

The FIPJP rules have nothing specific to say about coach-player consultation. The behavior of coaches, therefore, is governed by the same rules that govern spectator behavior in general. Similarly, the behavior of players toward their coach is governed by the rules that govern player behavior in general.

Article 16 – Behavior of players and spectators during a game
During the regulation time given to a player to throw his boule the spectators and players must observe total silence. The opponents must not walk, nor gesticulate, nor do anything that could disturb the player.

This means that while a player is throwing, coaches, spectators, and the other players must stay motionless and quiet. At other times they should maintain a reasonable calm and quiet, and not do anything by word or action to distract the opposing players or to interfere with the smooth progress of the game.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this means that while one player is throwing, the other players cannot shout across the terrain to ask their coach for advice, or walk across the terrain to consult with him. And of course the obverse is also true — a coach cannot shout instructions or advice at his players. Players and coaches should NEVER attempt to communicate by gesturing wildly in the other’s direction. If one or more of the players wish to communicate with their coach, they should wait until it is their team’s turn to throw, then walk over to where the coach is sitting and talk quietly.

While they are conversing, player and coach should remember the one-minute rule — the player is allowed only one minute to throw his boule. That means that players and coaches must keep their consultations short and to the point. Typically, the first violation of the one-minute rule will earn a player a yellow card and a warning from the umpire, but not a penalty. No big deal. But players need to be careful about gross or repeated violations of the one-minute rule — that can earn them more serious penalties.

Some players are confused about whether or not they are allowed to confer with their coach, because they remember Article 31, which says that—

No player may absent himself from a game or leave the game terrains without the permission of the Umpire.

Players sometimes misunderstand this rule as saying that, during a game, players can’t step outside the boundaries of the terrain in order to walk over and talk to their coach.

That is a mistake — that’s not what Article 31 is about. Players are of course allowed to step outside the boundaries of the terrain. In fact, when a player isn’t throwing, standing outside of the terrain boundary is the best place to be. If a boule or jack unexpectedly flies across the terrain and hits a player, there will be no problem — the boule or jack will have gone out-of-bounds before being stopped.

Article 31 has nothing to do with stepping outside of a terrain to consult with your coach. As international umpire Mike Pegg says

The rule about leaving the terrain/lane is not designed to prevent a player stepping out of the lane to talk to his coach who is standing or sitting at the end of the lane. The rule is is designed to deal with players that move way from the lane or the playing area to get a coffee, have a smoke, go to the toilet, etc.

The bottom line is that players definitely ARE allowed to walk over to the edge of the playing area and confer with their coach. They just need to behave appropriately when they do it.