TOPICS: What happens when two boules are equidistant from the jack? When a player throws out another player’s boule by mistake? When should teams call for an umpire? What are the new rules this year?

Greetings fellow petanquiers & petanqueuses (are those words?). Happy holidays!

Thanks to those who responded to the Debut Edition of Ask the Umpire. Responses from members have been positive, and I encourage more of you to send in your questions and participate in this forum. Don’t worry, I won’t bite!

Some follow-up to the Debut Edition:

One gentle reader asked for further explanation about where to stand in my clock-face analogy. Please recall that I indicated for the non-throwing team to stand behind and to the side of the person occupying the ring (or better, out beyond the jack). For example, if the jack is at 12-o’clock, and the thrower/circle is at a clock’s center, then opponents should stand in areas between 3-5, & 7-9-o’clocks. One of the purposes is so that the non-thrower does not enter the peripheral vision of the ring’s occupant. So let’s add a wee common sense/courtesy suggestion, which is to NOT stand directly at the 3 & 9 o’clock positions. Please, not in the thrower’s direct-side peripheral vision.

Bob asks, “Just for clarity, I get standing two meters behind the person in the ring but does that mean the opponent can be inside the court or should they be outside the “box”?”
Answer: The opponent may remain within the playing terrain, as long as the players observe the guidelines about where to stand; as described above & in Art.17.

On to Edition #2…

1. Lolli asks a question about boules equidistant from the jack: “As I understand it, if a tie is agreed upon (in casual play– no [arbitre] available), the team that played the last boule plays again to try to break the tie. If the tie is not broken, the rotation goes back to normal/alternating until the tie is broken.
My question is what happens if the tie is not broken and all boules are played. Is it a dead end or does the first boule in the tie get the point?

Answer: Article 29, sec.1 – “If the two teams have no more boules to play the end is dead and the jack belongs to the team which had scored the points in the previous end, or who had won the draw.”

2) Bob asks, “My question concerns an opponent accidentally throws someone else’s boules and then realizes the mistake. Do you just exchange the boules on the court or do they forfeit the boule because of their carelessness?”

Answer: (Art. 23 paraphrased) Yes, it is valid, and merely swapped out, and if an umpire is on hand, the player receives a yellow-card warning. If the player does it again, then the umpire may issue more real penalties (like boule forfeiture, as you suggest). In casual play with no umpire, just swap out the boule (in its resting identical location) with the correct one and tease the offender mercilessly (…or perhaps not).

3) Question from ME. – When should one call for an umpire?
A) Just for measurements? B) For rule clarifications? C) To complain about the opponents’ behavior? D) To provide chocolate to the umpire?

Answer: An umpire should be called over to your terrain for any/all of the above, WITH CAVEATS.

A) Measuring – Article 26 The measuring of a point is the responsibility of the player who last played or by one of his or her team-mates . The opponents always have the right to measure after one of these players. Measuring must be done with appropriate instruments, which each team must possess. Notably, it is forbidden to effect measurements with the feet. The players who do not observe this rule will incur the penalties outlined in Article 35. Whatever positions the boules to be measured may hold, and at whatever stage the end may be, the Umpire can be consulted and his or her decision is final. During the time that the umpire is measuring the players must be at least 2 meters away.

Unofficial Caveats – DO YOUR OWN MEASURING FIRST. If the difference in measurement between the boules in question are less than say, 2-3mm, THEN call the umpire. As noted in Article 26, measuring is the job of the team that just threw, and consequences of accidentally moving the jack or boules is on that team. However, unless you’re in a tournament, players are often more amicable and pragmatic about it . For instance, in Edmonds we have a fair number of players that have trouble bending their knees or backs in order to make an accurate measurement. Also, consider unsteady hands and poor eyesight. In those cases, I myself offer to measure for my team AND the opponent. Often the opponent replies, “Please do.” Also, some players are very good at measuring, and can make an accurate measurement lickety-split, without delaying the game.

B) Rule clarifications – If your opponent plays in a fashion that seems contrary to the rules, or cites a rule that seems suspect or unfair, then yes, call over an umpire. Do not always assume nefarious motives, some folks play by ‘tradition’, not necessarily by the exact rules. Caveat: If both teams can agree on pre- or mid-game exceptions, then there is no need to consult the umpire. Essentially, use your common sense, but be wary of gamesmanship and scoundrels.

C) Opponents’ behavior – At the risk of making a generalization (& I love making generalizations, just ask my wife), petanque was borne not of the well-mannered French elite, but of the rough-&-tumble working folks. Tempers flare, chest-pounding can be seen after good shots or wins, and cheating does occur, especially in tournaments where there is prize money. If there is intimidation, or excessive bravado, or (outright or surreptitious) disregard for the rules, definitely call over an umpire.

D) Gifts of chocolate? Bien Sur! — Caveat: only on cool days please.


FIPJP have issued rule modifications, effective 01 January 2021. They are attached to this message, however they have not yet been posted to the FPUSA website as of this writing. The rules have been translated from the French by International Umpire, Mike Pegg of the UK.

Notes of most interest (by no means a complete list of modifications):

1) Several sentences of rules have been moved to different sections. Most substantially into Articles 2 and 6. I believe this is an attempt to group similar topics together more cohesively.
2) Deleted the following from Art. 12: “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.” Recall this was substantive to my answer to Bill last month, and now it is deleted from Art.12, and shifted to Art.6’s last paragraph addition: “The players must mark the position of the jack initially and after each time it is moved. No claims will be allowed for an unmarked jack and the umpire will rule only on the position of the jack on the terrain.”
3) Deleted from Art.16: “It is forbidden to moisten the boules or jack.” A curious deletion. On the one hand the former rule was tough to enforce during a rainstorm. On the other hand, deleting it now permits wet rags to dampen boules and/or players to moisten their fingers with their tongues (ew, Covid) for a stickier grip on the boule.
4) Added to Art.6: “The circle must be drawn (or placed) more than one metre from any obstacle and at least 1.5 metres from another throwing circle or jack in use.” This is duplicated nearly verbatim in Art. 7, item 2).
— A note about “obstacles”. The wooden borders around the Edmonds terrains are not “obstacles”. Objects like trees, concrete posts, benches, chairs, tables, corners of buildings, pedestrian barriers, fences, etc. are considered as obstacles.
5) Consequences added to Art.6: “The team winning the toss, or the previous end will have only one attempt to throw the jack. If this jack is not valid it is handed to the opponent who must place it on the terrain at a valid position. If the jack is not placed in a valid position by the second team, the player who placed it shall be subject to the penalties outlined in article 35. In the event of a repeat offense, a new [penalty] card will be issued to the whole team, in addition to any cards previously received.” So, if the opponent does not place it legally they get penalized. However the rule does NOT say that the original tosser gets the jack back to throw again. It is “…the opponent who MUST place it…”.
6) Added to Art. 7, item 3) “That the jack must be a minimum 50cm from any obstacle and from the end of the lane, it must also be a minimum of 1.5 metres from another jack in use. (note: no minimum distance is required from the “side” line that separates the lanes or the dead ball lines on the side of the lanes).” So in Edmonds, half a metre from end string lines, and right up to side string lines is now permissible.

Again, the above changes are merely the most interesting. Please read the ATTACHED new rules yourself to note the complete changes.

If anyone has questions about what was written today, please write back directly to — PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO ALL. Please keep the questions coming!


Gregory Conyers

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.