Petanque Rules Archive / Archive des règles de la pétanque

This page contains an historical archive of the revisions of the rules of the game of petanque.
Cette page contient une archive historique des révisions des règles du jeu de pétanque.

For information about our file naming conventions, file formats, etc. see the notes on the files. For other kinds of rules (e.g. rules for the precision shooting competition) see our rules page.

| 2020 | 2016 | 2010 | 2008 | 2006 | 2002 | 1995 | 1984 |
| 1980 | 1976 | 1974 | 1972 | 1970 | 1964 | 1962 | 1959 |
FFBJP  | 1957 | 1954 | 1952 |
Early  | 1935 | 1920 |

OVERVIEW of the history of the rules of pétanque
Petanque was invented in 1910 as a modified form of Jeu Provençal. The rules that we have for the years between 1910 and 1950 are informal notes added to booklets containing the rules of Jeu Provençal.

During the 1930s and early 1940s, boules games were governed by the Fédération Française de Boules (FFB). In 1945 petanque players split with the FFB and created their own organization, the Fédération Française Bouliste du «Jeu Provençal et Pétanque» (FFBJPP). The FFBJPP held its first championship tournament 1946, and in 1952 it issued the first set of official rules of petanque. In 1958 the FFBJPP was renamed the Fédération Française de Pétanque et de Jeu Provençal, the FFPJP.

The international petanque federation (FIPJP) was created 1958. The FIPJP issued its own set of international rules in 1962. The FIPJP rules were used in FIPJP international competitions, but each nation federation continued to use its own rules, which were different in each nation.

1984 is a major milestone in the evolution of the rules— basically, the Grand Unification of the rules. In Rotterdam the FIPJP discarded its old international rules and adopted the French rules as the international rules. All of the national federations then adopted the international rules as their own national rules. For a decade afterward, new revisions of the FIPJP rules 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 into the national language, and possibly with a few slight modifications and/or umpire’s guidelines. Because of the 1984 Rotterdam unification of the rules, virtually identical rules are used in petanque tournaments everywhere on planet Earth.

2020 ▲

Approved by FIPJP 2020-12 (December 2020) to go into effect January 1, 2021.

English rules           pdf      docx      HTML      FIPJP
règles françaises       pdf      docx      HTML      FIPJP

Rules booklet

British English         pdf    docx

Changes to the rules, generated by Microsoft Word document compare

English rules           pdf      docx      
règles françaises       pdf      docx 

Notes on the changes by Stephen Ferg (English)  

2016 ▲

Approved 2016-12-04 (December 4, 2016) at Antananarivo (Madagascar), to go into effect January 1, 2017.

2016 FIPJP French version 
2016 FIPJP English version 
(there were several revisions to correct minor errors) 
2016 FIPJP French version changes  | docx |
2016 FIPJP English version changes | pdf | docx |

An overview of the changes is available HERE.

2010 ▲

Approved 2010-10-07 (October 7, 2010) in Izmir, Turkey.

petanque_2010_fipjp_bilingual.pdf — shows changes from 2008
petanque_2010_fpusa.pdf | petanque_2010_fpusa.docx

2008 ▲

Approved 2008-11-14 (November 14, 2008) in Dakar, Senegal.

  1. 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”).
  2. In article 3, a rule was added, forbidding the use of jacks that can be picked up by a magnet.
  3. 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 ▲

Approved 2006-09-20 (September 20, 2006) in Grenoble, France.

petanque_2006_fipjp_fr.pdf | petanque_2006_fipjp_fr.docx
  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.”
  4. In article 6, the rules mention “prefabricated” circles for the first time.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.”)
  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.”).
  8. 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 ▲

Approved 2002-10-03 (October 3, 2002) in Grenoble, France.


Three paragraphs were added to Article 6

  1. The team that throws the jack must wipe out all throwing circles near the one in use.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 ▲

Approved 1995-09-21 (September 21, 1995) in Brussels, Belgium.


The 1995 seems to have been the first revision of the rules since the Grand Unification 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 translation of the Code FPUSA.

1984 ▲

Approved 1984-09-20 (September 20, 1984) in Rotterdam.
Thanks to Jac Verheul for these files.


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 ▲

petanque_1980_ffpjp.pdf [JV]
petanque_1980_ffpjp.docx [JV]

French national rules (FFPJP) (39 articles)

The document is undated — the attribution to 1980 is based on internal and external evidence.

In this version, a new sentence has been added to the list of acceptable formations for singles, doubles, and triples games— Toute autre formule opposant des joueurs entre eux est interdite. The purpose of this sentence may have been explicitly to forbid 4-boule singles, which the FIPJP (international) rules of the time permitted.

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 ▲

Approved 1976.

petanque_1976_ffpjp.pdf [JV]
petanque_1976_ffpjp.docx [JV]

French national rules (FFPJP) (38 articles)

1974 ▲

Approved 1974-01-10 (January 10, 1974) in Toulouse.

petanque_1974_ffpjp_a.pdf [JV]
petanque_1974_ffpjp_a.docx [JV]

French national rules (FFPJP) (38 articles)

1972 ▲

Approved 1972-07-17 (July 17, 1972) in Genève.

petanque_1972_fipjp_fr_a.pdf [JV]
petanque_1972_fipjp_fr_a.docx [JV]

International rules (FIPJP) (47 articles)

This is the last set of international (FIPJP) rules before the Grand Unification of the rules at the Rotterdam conference in 1984 (see the discussion of the 1984 rules). 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.”

Raymond Ager notes—

  1. Article 6 allows the player to test the terrain before throwing either the jack or a boule. This was later changed to the player about to throw the jack. Why?
  2. Article 14 requires the player who threw the jack to check its validity with the opponents before playing his first boule. (Why on earth was this eminently sensible rule changed?)
    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.


  3. The smallest size of boules is 70mm — much more sensible than 70.5mm.

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.

Steve Ferg notes that these rules allow competition organizers to decide whether singles games are to be played with 3 or 4 boules.

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 ▲

Approved 1970-01-17 (January 17, 1970) in Marseille.

petanque_1970_ffpjp.pdf [JV]
petanque_1970_ffpjp.docx [JV]

French national rules (FFPJP) (38 articles)

1964 ▲

Approved 1964-01-12 (January 12, 1964).

petanque_1964_ffpjp.pdf [JV]
petanque_1964_ffpjp.docx [JV]

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 ▲

petanque_1962_fipjp_fr_a.pdf [JV]
petanque_1962_fipjp_fr_a.docx [JV]

International rules (FIPJP) (47 articles)
The source is the book ‘Les Fadas de la Pétanque’ by Francis Huger, Editions Pastorelly, Monte Carlo, 1963.

1959 ▲

FFPJP (30 articles)
Approved 1959-01-11 (January 11, 1959)
These early FFPJP rules still look very much like their predecessor FFBJPP rules.

petanque_1959_ffpjp.pdf [JV]
petanque_1959_ffpjp.docx [JV]

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

FIPJP (38 articles)

Undated, but used in September, 1959
The 1959 international championships were held in September at Spa, Belgium. The Belgian national federation printed up a nice booklet for the event, which Jac Verheul found and scanned. The booklet contains the rules to be used during the competition. The first file contains only the rules; the second contains the entire booklet. Note that in these rules, singles is played with four boules.

petanque_1959_fipjp_fr_spa_booklet.pdf [JV]

1957 ▲

Approved by the FFBJPP 1957-02-24 (February 24, 1957) in Marseille.

petanque_1957_ffbjpp_fr.pdf [JV]
petanque_1957_ffbjpp_fr.docx [JV]

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 ▲

Approved by the FFBJPP in 1954.

petanque_1954_ffbjpp.pdf [JV]
petanque_1954_ffbjpp.docx [JV]

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 ▲

Approved by the FFBJPP 1952-01-27 (January 27, 1952).

French      pdf       html  [JV]
English     jpg

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 .jpg file contains an English translation of the rules prepared by Jean-Louis Bontemps for the “Bowling Section of San Francisco” (predecessor of La Boule d’Or) probably sometime in the mid-1950s. This may be the only official English translation of the 1952 rules ever made. Note the American translation of mène as “inning”. (Thanks to Philip Bontemps, son of Jean-Louis Bontemps of La Petanque Mariniere, for this file.)

1935 ▲

Unofficial rules, 1935 [JV]

1920 rules for jeu provençal ▲

jeuprovencal_1920.pdf [JV]
jeuprovencal_1920.docx [JV]

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 a file naming convention with slots for four pieces of information.

  1. the year of adoption: 2010, 2016, 2020
  2. the identifier of the adopting organization: fipjp, ffpjp, fpusa
  3. the language of the document: fr, en
  4. a file format identifier: pdf, docx

               ▲    ▲    ▲  ▲

Organization Identifiers ▲

fipjp Intenational petanque federation
ffpjp French national federation
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

File format identifiers ▲

pdf Portable Document Format
docx Microsoft Word 2007
html HTML (web page)


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