Rules of the game of petanque. For other rules (e.g. rules for the precision shooting competition) see our rules page.
Overview of the history of the rules
| 2016 | 2010 | 2008 | 2006 | 2002 | 1995 | 1984 |
| 1980 | 1976 | 1974 | 1972 | 1970 | 1964 | 1962 | 1959 |
| 1957 | 1954 | 1952 | 1935 | 1920 |
Notes on the filenames
This page hosts an archive of the revisions of the rules of petanque. These archival files are maintained on our own servers. See the Notes for information on these files, including file formats, file naming conventions, etc.
Jac Verheul, who contributed many of the copies of the rules on this page, has created a spreadsheet that tracks interesting features of the rules, and changes to those features over time. Click HERE to read it in .pdf format.
Overview of the history of the rules ▲
The first official French-language rules of petanque were issued by the French national federation, the Fédération Française Bouliste du «Jeu Provençal et Pétanque» (FFBJPP) in 1952. Jac Verheul believes that these were probably the first rules issued by the FFBJPP after its founding in 1945. In 1958 the FFBJPP was renamed the Fédération Française de Pétanque et de Jeu Provençal, the FFPJP.
Before the creation of the international federation (FIPJP) in 1958, each national federation had its own set of rules. Naturally those rules, which had evolved independently in each nation, were slightly different in each nation. The FIPJP issued its own set of international rules in 1962, for use in international competitions. But each nation continued to use its own set of rules for its own national and regional competitions. Note that the various national and international rules were NOT coordinated in any way. In particular, there were differences between the FIPJP (international) rules and the FFPJP (French national) rules.
1984 is a major milestone in the evolution of the rules. In Rotterdam, in 1984, there was a sort of unification of the rules. The FIPJP adopted the French rules as the international rules. And the national federations adopted the international rules as the basis of their own national rules. For a decade, new rules revisions were treated as minor updates to the 1984 Rotterdam rules.
From 1984 until the present, the rules of the national federations are essentially copies of the international rules, translated (of course) into the national language, and possibly with a few slight modifications. Because of the 1984 Rotterdam unification of the rules, virtually identical rules are used in petanque tournaments everywhere on planet Earth.
2016 revision ▲
Approved 2016-12-04 (December 4, 2016) at Antananarivo (Madagascar), to go into effect January 1, 2017.
An overview of the changes is available HERE.
2010 revision ▲
Approved 2010-10-07 (October 7, 2010) in Izmir, Turkey.
Guide to the Rules — French, English, notes
petanque_2010_fipjp_bilingual.pdf — shows changes from 2008
2008 REVISION ▲
- In article 3, the rule governing the diameter of the jack was changed. Previously the diameter of the jack was required to be between 25mm and 35mm. That was changed to between 29mm and 31mm (described as “30mm plus/minus 1mm”).
- In article 3, a rule was added, forbidding the use of jacks that can be picked up by a magnet.
- Previously, Article 5 said “If the terrain is surrounded by solid barriers these must be a minimum of 30 cm outside the dead ball line.” The word “solid” naturally suggested something like wooden surrounds made of railroad ties (sleepers). In the new version, the word “solid” has been removed.
NOTES by Mike Pegg, International Umpire and president of EPA
The changes of 2008 and 2010 were not only to modify some rules, but also in part to restructure the rule book. Over the years, as a rule was changed or introduced, very little care had been given to the actual structure or order of the rules. The 2008 update included moving a number of rules around to put them in some order.
Prior to 2008 there was one rule in particular, the “dead ball line” rule, that caused a lot of confusion. Basically the rules started with an area surrounded by a fence or barrier (designed to keep spectators off the playing area). 30 centimeters inside this barrier was the dead ball line. One meter inside the dead ball line were the lanes.
In 2008 we tried to simplify the rules. Now the outer line of the lanes is also the dead ball line, and the barriers for spectators must be at least one meter outside of the dead ball line.
And why is there a distance of one meter from the dead ball line to the barriers?
The 2008 rules simplifications also did away with the rule that the circle must be 1 meter from the dead ball line. Now players can place the circle next to (but not over) the outer line of their lane. So the 1 meter distance between the dead ball line and the barriers allows the players enough room for their back swing.
Some people wisely place a timber boundary around the outside of the dead ball line to stop boules from rolling too far from the playing area. There is no rule defining the distance from the dead ball line to the timber, but we recommend it be at least 30 centimeters.
NOTES by Barbara Whittington, Secretary, Pétanque NZ
Some of the changes are administrative only e.g. licences no longer have to have the player’s signature. The main changes “on the piste” are:
Article 3 – diameter of jacks (must now be 30mm ± 1mm, cf previously allowed 25mm – 35mm)
Article 5 – change to distance of solid barriers from playing area, and definition of dead ball lines.
Article 6 – prefabricated circles (can only be used if supplied by the tournament organisers)
Article 10 – filling in holes — Players can now fill in any hole (not just one made by last boule thrown, but still only one hole)
Article 20 – clarification — only one minute is allowed to throw jack and this covers all 3 throws if necessary.
Games can now be played to time limits. There are subsequent changes to article 9 & 18 regardomg jack/boule out of bounds during a time limited game.
Regarding the allowing of time-limited games, this is apparently because of the wide use of the Swiss system across Central and Eastern Europe. There has also been some debate on using the Swiss system for the World Championships. This system requires all games to be completed before starting the next round of a competition. To achieve this and to keep control over the time taken up, most organisers run the qualifying rounds to a set time e.g. 1½ hours per game. As there was nothing in the Rules allowing timed games, it was decided to modify the rules to include this possibility.
2006 REVISION ▲
- In article 2, section 2c (specifying rules for jacks) was promoted into a full-fledged article of its own — article 3 — and the number of articles increased from 39 to 40.
- In article 5, the following paragraph was added — “When playing areas are placed end to end, the end lines of the lanes, which are common to both playing areas, are classed as dead ball lines.”
- In article 6, the following paragraph was added. “The interior of the circle can be completely cleared of grit/pebbles etc. during the end but must be put back in good order at the end of the latter or, at the latest, before the throwing of the jack at the following end.”
- In article 6, the rules mention “prefabricated” circles for the first time.
- In article 6, a player in a wheelchair should now position the wheel on the side of the throwing arm inside the circle. Previously, the entire wheelchair had to be positioned over the circle.
- In article 9 (specifying when a jack is considered dead), section 1 was removed (“The jack is deemed dead … when, after having been thrown, it is not within the limits as defined in Article 7.”)
- In article 9, section 4 was added (“The jack is deemed dead … when, on marked out playing areas, the jack crosses more than one lane immediately to the side of the lane in use.”).
- In article 15, right after the paragraph forbidding the moistening of boules, the following paragraph was added — “Before throwing his boule, the player must remove from it any trace of mud or whatever deposit, under threat of penalties outlined in Article 34.”
2002 REVISION ▲
- The team that throws the jack must wipe out all throwing circles near the one in use.
- The area within the circle may be completely cleared during the end but it must be restored when the end is finished or, at the latest, before the start of the next end.
- The circle is not considered to be out of bounds.
According to the 2002 rules revision, a zombie boule (a boule that goes out-of-bounds and comes back on the terrain) must be removed immediately. If this is not done, and a player of the opposing team (the team that does NOT own the zombie boule) plays a boule, the opposing team is considered to have accepted the zombie boule, and the zombie boule comes back to full life again. Before 2002, the rule was that a zombie boule would come back to life again if ANY boule was played before it was removed from the terrain, regardless of which team played the boule.
1995 REVISION ▲
Approved 1995-09-21 (September 21, 1995) in Brussels, Belgium.
The 1995 revision seems to have been the first since the rules were overhauled in 1984. It describes itself as “adopted in 1984 at Rotterdam, and revised in 1995 in Brussels”.
The 1995 version is the first that mentions players in wheelchairs. Article 6 includes a new sentence that states that a player throwing from a wheelchair must position the whole wheelchair straddling the circle, with the footrest over the front edge of the circle .
The 1995 version also appends a French transation of the Code FPUSA.
1984 REVISION ▲
Approved 1984-09-20 (September 20, 1984) in Rotterdam.
International rules (FIPJP) (39 articles)
1984 marks a major milestone in the evolution of the rules. Before 1984 each national federation had its own national rules, and the national rules could vary considerably from country to country. The FIPJP had its own set of rules that was independent of each of the national federations’ rules.
In 1984, the FIPJP adopted and adapted the French national (FFPJP) rules as the international (FIPJP) rules. And national federations fell in line behind the FIPJP. Since that time, the national federations have basically adopted the FIPJP rules as their own national rules.
1980 REVISION ▲
The document is undated — the attribution to 1980 is based on internal and external evidence.
In this version, article 38 (the last article) was expanded and split into two articles, 38 and 39.
A footnote in Article 2 specifies that although the current minimum weight of a boule is 620g, on January 1, 1984, the minimum will increase to 650g. Presumably this is an advance warning, inserted into the rules in order to give players and manufacturers time to migrate to the new standard.
1976 REVISION ▲
1974 REVISION ▲
1972 REVISION ▲
International rules (FIPJP) (47 articles)
This is the last set of international (FIPJP) rules before national and international rules were brought into line and normalized at the Rotterdam conference in 1984 (see the discussion of the 1984 rules, above). At this time the FIPJP and national federation rules were still independent. As a result there are interesting differences between the international (FIPJP) rules and the French national (FFPJP) rules.
Jac Verheul writes “These FIPJP-rules are rather atypical, because there a a lot of differences from the rules of the FFPJP from that time. Maybe they were only applied during the world championships. In these rules, for instance, the minimum and maximum weights of the boules are not mentioned, and neither is the maximum distance of a moved jack.”
Steve Ferg notes that the rules for jacks are located in Article 11, not in Article 2. They specify only that the jack must be made of wood, and omit the specification found in the FFPJP rules that white-painted wooden jacks are permitted.
Raymond Ager writes “Three things that I’ve always thought odd in the current rules, all make sense in this version.”
- Article 6 allows the player about to throw, to test the terrain before playing. Why on earth was this changed to “the player about to throw the jack”? Crazy and illogical.
- Article 14 requires the player throwing the jack to check its validity with the opponents before playing a boule. Why on earth was this eminently sensible rule changed?
- The size of boules is 7 to 8 cm — much more sensible than 70.5mm.
In his second point, Raymond is referring to this sentence in Article 14.
Après le jet du but, demander l’acceptation de l’adversaire sur la validité avant l’envoi de la première boule
After the throw of the jack, ask for the opposing team’s acceptance of the validity [of the jack] before throwing the first boule.
Steve Ferg notes that Article 18 contains a useful rule, found in no other version of the rules. It says that when a jack goes out-of-bounds (and the circle must be placed close to where it went out-of-bounds)
Pour éviter toute discussion quant au point de sortie exact du but, il est décidé de déterminer ce point de sortie en traçant une ligne droite théorique entre l’extrémité du rond et le but; le point de jonction de cette ligne avec la ligne de perte (terrain autorisé) sera obligatoirement le point de sortie du but.
To avoid any question as to the exact exit point of the jack, it was decided to determine the exit point by imagining a straight line drawn between the edge of the circle and the jack. The point where this line crosses the dead-ball line must be treated as the exit point of the jack.
1970 REVISION ▲
1964 REVISION ▲
Approved 1964-01-12 (January 12, 1964).
French national rules (FFPJP) (38 articles)
Les présents règlements, étudiés par la Commission technique, ont été définitivement approuvés par le Congrès National des 11 et 12 Janvier 1964 qui les a rendus exécutoires à partir de la même date. Ces règlements, par leur stricte application, seront exempts de toute réforme pour une durée minimum de cinq années. [date] Le 12 janvier 1964
1962 REVISION ▲
International rules (FIPJP) (47 articles)
The source is the book ‘Les Fadas de la Pétanque’ by Francis Huger, Editions Pastorelly, Monte Carlo, 1963.
1959 REVISION ▲
Approved 1959-01-11 (January 11, 1959).
French national rules (FFPJP) (30 articles)
Les présents règlements, étudiés par la Commission technique, ont été définitivement approuvés par le Congrès National des 10 et 11 janvier 1959, qui les a rendus exécutoires à partir de la même date. Ces règlements, par leur stricte application, seront exempts de toute réforme pour une durée minimum de cinq années. [date] Le 11 janvier 1959
These early FIPJP rules still look very much like their predecessor FFBJPP rules.
1957 REVISION ▲
Approved by the FFBJPP 1957-02-24 (February 24, 1957) in Marseille.
French national rules (FFBJPP) (28 articles)
This was the last version of the rules published by the FFBJPP before it was replaced by the FFPJP.
1954 REVISION ▲
Approved by the FFBJPP in 1954.
French national rules (FFBJPP) (28 articles)
Jac Verheul notes “There are some small modifications to the rules of 1952. This document was part of Le Guide du Pétanqueur, published in 1954 by the sous-committee of Béziers.”
1952 REVISION ▲
Approved by the FFBJPP 1952-01-27 (January 27, 1952).
French national rules (FFBJPP) (28 articles)
These rules were issued by the FFBJPP, the Fédération Française Bouliste du « Jeu Provençal et Pétanque » in 1952. Jac Verheul believes that these were probably the first rules issued by the FFBJPP after its founding in 1945. (The FIPJP was created later, in 1958.) This was the first set of rules of petanque to appear in Bournemann’s little booklet of rules edited by Charles Tardieu, which has gone through many editions. Booklets before 1952 included the rules for boule lyonnaise, skittles (quilles), and bowling, but not petanque.
The petanque_1952_ffbjpp_en.jpg file contains an image of an English translation of this version of the rules prepared by one “J. Bontemps”, for the “Bowling Section of San Francisco” (a predecessor of La Boule d’Or?) probably sometime in the mid-1950s. This may be the only official English translation of these rules ever made. Note the very American decision to translate mène as “inning”. (Thanks to Philip Bontemps, son of Jean-Louis Bontemps of La Petanque Mariniere, for this file.)
1935 REVISION ▲
1920 rules for jeu provençal ▲
Jac Verheul notes—
These are the rules of jeu provençal, the ancestor of petanque, from around 1920. The source is the booklet Traité de Jeu de Boules avec règlements complets des Fédérations Lyonnaise et Provençal. This booklet, which also contains the rules of boule lyonnaise, was published around 1920 by the Manufacture Française d’Armes et Cycles de Saint-Étienne, a factory of arms and bicycles which was also a distributor of (wooden nailed) boules.
Interesting is article 4 of the first chapter, which says that the team that wins the toss or an end must draw the circle and throw the jack, but that the opponent has the choice (la faculté) to throw the first boule! (This rule still exists in the rules from 1935.)
About Chapitre III Art 2 — Les chocs sont interdits. — Le choc is explained in the rules from 1935, art. 8. It’s the small supplementary step when a shooter starts his run-up. It still exists in the rules of jeu provençal.
Notes on the files in the archives ▲
Files noted with [JV] are from the personal collection of Jac Verheul. We are grateful to Jac for scanning them and allowing us to post them here.
The FIPJP usually places revision information at the end of its documents. Where possible, we have moved that information to the beginning of the document.
In French documents —
CNA = Commission Nationale d’Arbitrage, the French National Umpires Committee
MAJ = mise à jour, the revision date
There are no official file naming conventions for electronic files containing the rules of petanque. We use the following file naming convention. File names consist of the following seven parts —
- The word “petanque”
- an underscore “_”
- the year that the version/revision of the rules was adopted, e.g. “2010”
- an underscore “_”
- the identifier of the adopting organization, e.g. “ffpjp”
- a dot “.”
- a file format identifier, e.g. “pdf”
For example petanque_2010_fipjp_fr.pdf is a pdf file that contains the French text provided by the FIPJP of the 2010 revision of the rules.
Adopting organization identifiers ▲
fpusa USA national federation au Australian national federation bpf British Petanque Federation (predecessor of the four UK national organizations) epa English Petanque Association esp Spanish national federation ffbjpp the Fédération Française Bouliste du «Jeu Provençal et Pétanque», the predecessor of the FIPJP ffpjp French national federation fipjp_fr FIPJP (French) fipjp_en FIPJP (English) fipjp_bilingual FIPJP (parallel French & English)
File format identifiers ▲
Portable Document Format docx Microsoft Word 2007 html HTML (web page) odt Open Document Text
About .odt files ▲
An .odt file is a word-processing file in the international, open Open Document format.
Odt files can be opened and edited with the free LibreOffice text editor.
Odt files can also be opened in Microsoft Word, starting with Word 2007.
To download an .odt file, click on the file link and choose SAVE or SAVE AS.