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 4 boules.

Closeup of a petanque boule disqualified in the previous mene.

Closeup of a petanque boule disqualified in the previous mene.


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Putting things back

One of the problems with the FIPJP rules document is that it mixes together in one document material that properly belongs in three different documents— rules of the game, administrative procedures, and guidelines for umpires. In particular, mixing guidelines for umpires with rules of the game blurs the difference between the two. The rules about “putting things back” are a good illustration of this problem.

There are a variety of ways in which a ball (boule or jack) can be moved illegally during a game. When a ball is illegally moved, players then confront the question of whether they should leave it where it is, or put it back in its original location.

putting_back_a_petanque_boule

Here is what the FIPJP rules say.

Article 12 – Jack masked or displaced … To avoid all disagreement, the players must mark the position of the jack. No claim will be accepted [by an umpire] regarding unmarked boules or an unmarked jack.

Article 22 – Displaced boules … To avoid all disagreement, the players must mark the boules. No claim will be admissible [by an umpire] for an unmarked boule, and the umpire will make his decision based only on the locations of the boules on the terrain.

Basically, this boils down to a set of guidelines for umpires and a separate set of guidelines (advice, really) for players.

Guidelines for Umpires
When making a decision concerning an illegally-moved ball (boule or jack) an umpire will ignore any claim by players about the original location of the ball if that original location is not marked, and will make his decision based only on the current locations of the balls on the terrain.

Guidelines for Players
An umpire will ignore any claim that you might make about the original location of a ball if that original location is not marked. Therefore, the only way that you can be sure that an umpire will return an illegally-moved ball to its original location is (a) always to mark the current location of every ball on the terrain, and (b) always to create new marks and erase old marks whenever any of the balls is moved.

These guidelines generate a lot of discussion on online petanque forums. What I want to emphasize in this post is that players are not bound by the guidelines for umpires. If you are a player in a social game where there is no umpire, the guidelines for umpires are irrelevant. You and your fellow players are free to restore an illegally-moved ball (say, a jack accidentally moved during measurement) to its original location and carry on with your game. (Here, “its original location” means in effect “a location agreeable to both teams”. This is an important feature of the rules of Petanque Libre, which are specifically designed for games where there is no umpire.)

Even if you are playing in an umpired game you are NOT required to call in an umpire if a ball is moved illegally. Without calling in an umpire, the two teams are free to restore an illegally-moved ball to its original location and carry on with their game.

Read other posts in the Putting Things Back category


Deliberately picking up your own boule

In the 2016 revision of the FIPJP rules, a third paragraph was added to the text of Article 27. The article in its entirety now reads:

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, what the article implicitly said was——

If a player (deliberately) picks up one of his own boules, the boule is dead and the player receives (only) a warning.

The idea that a player would want deliberately to remove one of his own boules might seem strange. But it isn’t, really. Suppose, for instance, 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 completely open, just waiting for you to point those four boules in and score four points, EXCEPT… one of your own boules, B1, is in the way. It is sitting exactly on the ideal donnée for your pointing throws. It is a great blocking boule, but now it is blocking you rather than the opponents.
     
  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 kind of situation. If you shoot A1, B1 will go flying and A1 will hardly move.

newtons_cradle_animation_book_2
newtonian_boules

In both of these situations (and there are others like them) it would be to your advantage if you could pick up your own boule and remove it. In some circumstances, it might be worth doing even if you got a warning from the umpire for doing it. In social games played without an umpire, you wouldn’t even get a warning. Soon, perhaps, the idea would spread that picking up one of your own boules was a recognized and acceptable part of the game.

The addition of paragraph 3 to the text of Article 27 fixes that. Don’t think of paragraph 3 as specifying a punishment for picking up your own boule. Rather, think of it as eliminating the possibility of gaining any advantage at all from deliberately picking up one of your own boules.


Paragraph 3, like many other rules, has the potential to cause problems for umpires. Imagine a situation like our first example in which B1, one of team B’s own boules, has become a nasty blocking boule for team B. Ben, the captain of team B, walks up to the boule to inspect the situation. He sees a hole in the terrain not far from the boule. He starts using one foot to scrape dirt toward the hole when— suddenly— he loses his balance. Swinging arms and legs wildly in an attempt to regain his balance, he accidentally kicks B1, knocking it a meter away.

Now the umpire has a problem. He must decide whether Ben’s action was or was not a genuine accident. If it was an accident, B1 stays where Ben kicked it (because its location wasn’t marked). But if Ben deliberately moved B1 (which in this case is tantamount to picking it up from the terrain) the boule is dead, and so are all of team B’s remaining unplayed boules. Rules about players doing something accidentally (or deliberately) inevitably raise the old, old question— “How can we know whether he did it accidentally or deliberately?” That’s the problem that this rule potentially poses for umpires.


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


When does a mene begin and end?

There are two different models of how menes (“ends”, “rounds”) begin and end.

In the Standard Model there are two kinds of events. One event marks the end of a mene, and a different event marks the beginning of the next mene. Time may elapse between the end of one mene and the start of the next.

In the Dividing-Line Model there is a single event that divides one mene from the other. That event marks both the end of the previous mene and the start of the next mene.

two_models_of_menes

The FIPJP rules use the Standard Model— a mene ends with the agreement of points and the next mene begins with the throw of the jack. We will look at the details of this model in a moment.

The Dividing-line Model is used only in time-limited games, and only for the purposes of deciding whether or not a new mene has started when the time-limit is announced (e.g. by the sound of a whistle or bell). The instant when the last boule of the mene finishes rolling (i.e. comes to a complete stop) is used as the dividing-line between the menes. In a time-limited game, if all boules have been thrown and team A is currently winning and knows the time-limit is near, team A may deliberately try to run out the clock rather than risk playing another mene. They may insist on measuring when measuring isn’t necessary, then measure slowly, and then take as long as possible to throw the jack. Using the moment that the last boule comes to rest to signal the start of the next mene stops such deliberate stalling.

Formerly the CEP (Eurocup) used the agreement of points as the dividing-line between menes in time-limited games, but now the CEP rule for time-limited games is: “A new end is considered to have started as soon as the last boule from the previous end has been played.” The Petanque New Zealand umpire’s guide is very clear in its description of the rule. “When the time signal is sounded,… if all boules of the end have been played and have come to a stop… that end has finished, (regardless of measuring and deciding points)… [and] you have officially started the new end… This rule applies only in timed games to determine how many ends remain to be played after the time signal is sounded. It is not used for any other purpose.”


Use of the Standard Model in the FIPJP rules.

For many years the start of a mene was marked by the successful throw of the jack, but with the 2016 version of the FIPJP rules, “A mene is considered to have started when the jack has been thrown regardless of the validity of the throw.”

(1) The One-Minute Rule
Article 21 contains the One-Minute Rule.

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. … The same requirements apply to the throwing of the jack.

Article 21 never uses the expression “the end of the mene”, but it says, basically, that a mene ends with the agreement of points. The one-minute timer starts ticking at the moment that the teams know which team should play next.

(2) A late-arriving player
Article 33 of the FIPJP rules says that when a player arrives late to the competition, he/she must wait until the start of the next mene before he/she may join the game.

(3) Prematurely picked-up boules
Article 27 says, in effect, that a mene ends with the agreement of points.
“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.”

(4) Waiting for the end of the mene in another game
Article 13 says, in effect, that a mene ends with the agreement of points.
“If, during a mene, the jack is displaced onto another game terrain… the players using this jack will wait for the end of the mene that was started by the players on the other game terrain, before finishing their own mene.”


Sweeping

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)

Probably the most significant change in the 2016 revision of the rules is the change to the rule about how the jack is thrown.

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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.

Starting in 2016, 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 a valid 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, the use of the word “places” rather than “throws” is important.  The other team is assigned the task of getting the jack to a valid location.  There are no rules about how they do it.  The simplest and most reliable procedure is for a team-member to walk to the desired location, lean over, and use his hand to put the jack down on the ground (not drop it!) in exactly the desired location.

The reason for this change to the rules is simple— to speed up games.  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 the rule worked well in those games, too.  Most teams quickly adapted to the new rule and were in favor of the change. And a noticeable amount of time was saved each day.  Having passed its trial runs successfully, the rule was officially adopted. Voilà! (source: Mike Pegg)

Any change, of course, generates its own new issues and new questions.  Perhaps the most important question raised by the one-throw-of-the-jack rule is—

Will this change have a negative effect on the basic nature of the game?

It is a petanque commonplace that the right to throw the jack gives a team a significant advantage.  Having three attempts to throw the jack allows a team to be aggressive in attempting to get the jack to the exact location where they want it, which is often close to the maximum legal distance from the circle.  But with only one attempt, teams may start playing more conservatively when throwing the jack.  Will we begin seeing games typically played at the bland and boring distance of 8 meters, rather than the exciting and challenging distances of 9 meters and more that we now see?

This seems to me to be a reasonable question, and one that only the future can answer.  On the other hand, as Ernesto Santos notes, the new rule may push the game in a new and interesting direction.  The one-throw rule punishes players that can’t control the thrown jack, while rewarding players who can.  This will put pressure on players to become more skillful at throwing the jack.  The day may come when we see spectacular throws of the jack, and when the ability to control the thrown jack is as important as the ability to shoot well.

There are other, more mundane, questions that arise in connection with the one-throw-of-the-jack rule.

How does this change affect The Stepping-Back Rule?

The short answer is that it makes everything clearer.   The old rule permitted, and raised, a lot of questions, questions that were answered differently by different national federations.  “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, all of those questions go away.  The new version of The Stepping-Back Rule is clear and simple.

  • 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.

How does this change affect the rules about challenging the jack?

There are really no significant changes to the rules about challenging the jack.  I’ve unpacked the new rules into six basic rule-scenarios.  The only one that is particularly new or interesting is number 4.

  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 one 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.

A noteworthy fact about the 2016 rules revisions is that they do NOT answer The Pushed Jack Question— “If team A’s thrown jack is neither marked nor measured, and team A’s first boule pushes the jack, can team B challenge the jack?”  The question is still as unresolved as it ever was.  For more information about The Pushed Jack Question, see A Guide to the Rules of Petanque.

Can team B measure before placing the jack?

This question came up during an exchange between Raymond Ager and Mike Pegg on “Ask the Umpire”— https://www.facebook.com/groups/128791213885003/.  Here is my condensed version of the exchange, which I have heavily boiled down and rewritten from the original.

RA: After team A fails to throw a valid jack, if team B wishes to place the jack at exactly 6m or 10m, are they allowed to measure before placing the jack?

MP: Well, the rule is that team B must place the jack in a valid position.  If that means you need to get out your tape measure, then so be it.  Assuming that team B wishes to place the jack at the exact minimum of 6m or the exact maximum of 10m it would make sense to measure first. However, I’ve not seen it happen yet.

RA: If team B doesn’t measure before placing the jack, how do they know the distance is valid?

MP: The teams seem to be able to place the jack in a valid position without measuring.  If you place the jack not at exactly 6m or 10m, but at a distance where it is clear to everybody that it is valid, you don’t need to measure it, do you?