TOPICS: Where is it ok to stand when the other team is throwing? Is it required/advisable to mark the jack or one’s boules? What? What are the reasons for marking positions? What happens when a boule is moved by accident?

Greetings Boulistes!

Many thanks to the three club members who wrote in with questions for the inaugural “Ask the Umpire” forum. Without further ado, let’s get to the questions and answers.

1) Mari asks, ” I have a question … regarding where to stand when your team is not in possession of the point. My confusion may be due in part to being told very different guidelines for this by at least 3 people who have played petanque for a lot longer than I have.”

Answer: Rules, Article 17 — “The opponents must remain beyond the jack or behind the player and, in both cases, TO THE SIDE with regard to the direction of play and at a distance of at least two meters the one from the other.”

For an easy-ish way to visualize this, let’s imagine that the throwing circle is the center of a clock, with 12-noon pointing toward the jack . Opponents need to stand at minimum 2 meters behind the circle in the area between 3 o’clock to 5 o’clock, or 7 o’clock to 9 o’clock.

Ideally, opponents would stand instead beyond the jack, which would inverse the exercise above. In no case should the opponent be anywhere between the ring and the jack, nor directly behind the thrower nor directly behind the jack. Note the emphasis on TO THE SIDE.

Note too that if you are playing diagonally on the court, the 12-to-6 o’clock axis is also diagonal, and not parallel to the court’s sides.

2) Bill asks, “It would be helpful… to review the need for, the rules for, and the reasoning for marking the cochonnet with tick marks, sometimes in the middle of the court. Some people also mark the boule positions.”

So, in a nutshell, why should we mark stuff?

Short answer: Article 12 is most succinct: “To avoid any argument, the players must mark the jack’s position. No claim can be accepted regarding boules or jack whose positions have not been marked.” The rules repeatedly reference marking the jack’s or boules’ locations.

Example A: Team A throws the jack just shy of 10 meters but does not measure the distance nor mark its resting location. Team A then throws a great first boule, which contacts the jack and carries the jack to 11-or-12 meters. Team A’s boule rests centimeters from the jack. Team B challenges the distance of the jack. Team A will lose the challenge because there is no reference point (mark) of the boule’s (possibly legal) position before the first boule was thrown.

Example B: The jack and several boules are near the end line (or anywhere on the terrain, really). A boule from Team A holds the point with the jack touching, or centimeters close. Neither team has marked the position of the jack nor the position of their respective boules. Team B shoots and misses its target. However, Team B’s salvo rebounds/ricochets off of the wooden perimeter and dislodges Team A’s point, along with moving the jack to where Team B now holds the point. Obviously, the boule (from Team B) that struck the wood is disqualified and removed. But what about all the rest of the mess? Should Team B gain an advantage even though their shot went out-of-bounds? Article 19 — “If the boule comes back into the playing area, either because of the slope of the ground or by having rebounded from an obstacle… it is immediately taken out of the game and anything that it has displaced… is put back in place provided these objects have been marked.” Since nothing was marked, and Team B maybe knows the rules better than Team A, Team B does indeed get the point and the advantage, despite breaking the rules.

In summary, it is prudent to be in the habit of marking everything always: ring, jack, your team’s boules. It is also annoyingly OCD to do so. Personally, I mark the jack if it is thrown out beyond 9 meters. I mark the jack and my team’s boules if they are near the string lines.

3) Forest asks, ” I thought I would kick-it-off by getting clarity on what to do when a boule is moved unintentionally. I did a little research on this question a few months ago and have attached what I found [Petanque Libre Rules]. What are your thoughts? Do different rules apply during tournaments and “open” play? Do you agree with “leaving the unmarked boule where it is and warning the player”? Should “what to do if a boule is moved unintentionally” be agreed upon between teams before any play?”

Alas, Forest’s questions require a fair amount of ink for reply.

Article 22: ” If a stationary boule is moved by the wind or slope of the ground, for example, it is put back in its place. The same applies to any boule accidentally displaced by a player, an Umpire, a spectator, an animal, or any moving object.

To avoid any dispute, the players must mark the boules. No claim will be admissible for an unmarked boule, and the Umpire will give a decision only in terms of the position the boules hold on the terrain.”

Article 27: ” It is forbidden for players to pick up played boules before the completion of an end. At the completion of an end, all boules picked up before the agreement of points are dead. No claim is admissible on this subject. 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.

Answer A ) Boules moved unintentionally – For brevity, let’s omit discussion of boules in motion. Ok, let’s define ‘unintentionally’ or ‘accidentally’. This requires complete honesty from the player. A suspect enterprise at best.

1) If a player who is unaware of or overlooks a boule’s location underfoot and displaces the boule, it is deemed accidental/unintentional. It should be put back, if marked. If both teams can agree on the location of an unmarked displaced boule, then great. If the teams cannot agree, then the boule rests at the new, ‘moved’ position.

2) If a player thinks an end is completed (but it is not) and begins to gather their boules by their feet or with their hands, that is NOT an accident. It IS an intention, based on the player’s error of counting, whether boules are actually picked up from the ground or not. Consequences of Article 27 apply. This has been confirmed by national and international umpires.

Answer B) Rules are applied equally during casual play or tournament play. However, during casual play, club or players may mutually agree on whether to be ‘strict’ with the rules, or not. This is evidenced by EPC’s league play, which tries to focus on a more amicable outlook towards competitive play.

Answer C) I have read your attachment of the Petanque Libre rules, which rely on the honor and honesty of the players in the absence of umpires. A noble endeavor indeed, though perhaps not practicable. I would say that if both teams in a game are fluent with and agree to abide by the Petanque Libre rules, then it is a free country, as they say. That being said, I would caution against creating confusion amongst club members by application of two different sets of rules simultaneously. Lastly, EPC bylaws cite our sole affiliation with FPUSA and its rules, so that supersedes everything.

If anyone has questions about or reactions to what is written above, please write back directly to me at PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO ALL.

Very good questions for this Debut Edition. KEEP THEM COMING!


Gregory Conyers

“Ask the Umpire”

The preceding rules interpretations are offered by EPC member Greg Conyers, NW Regional Umpire. They represent Greg’s interpretation of current petanque rules. Other umpires’ opinions may differ.