What’s wrong with the FIPJP rules

There are four major problems with the FIPJP rules.

(1) The FIPJP rules are a mixture of different kinds of rules.

The FIPJP rules are a messy mixture of the rules of the game (like the rules of chess), administrative rules for running competitions (“Before the start of a competition, each player must present his membership card”) and guidelines for umpires (“No claim can be accepted [by an umpire] regarding boules or jack whose positions have not been marked”). The FIPJP rules are more like competition rules than rules of the game of petanque. This wouldn’t be a major problem if it were possible easily to disentangle the different kinds of rules. But it is not.

(2) The FIPJP rules are designed for umpired competitions.

The FIPJP rules assume competition conditions and the presence of an umpire. For some rules there is no way to interpret or apply the rule without an umpire. (The definition of “visible from the circle” is “visible to an umpire standing in the circle”.) This is a problem because every day, around the world, in petanque clubs and groups large and small, most games are played without an umpire.

(3) The FIPJP rules are extremely badly written.

It is impossible, at least here, to list the many, many ways that the rules are badly written. Many rules are ambiguous, vague, or simply incomprehensible. Important rules are missing. Some rules, under some circumstance, are grossly unfair.

These problems could be mitigated by a robust body of case law of interpretations, but no such body exists. There is no mechanism for communicating interpretations between umpires, or between umpires and players. Interpretations differ from umpire to umpire, and from national federation to national federation.

(4) These problems are unacknowledged and hidden.

What makes these problems so serious for the FIPJP is that they are not recognized or acknowledged. As long as the FIPJP does not recognize that there are problems with the rules, the FIPJP will not fix them.

What makes these problems so serious for players is that the problems are hidden so well. Players who read the rules naively assume that the rules are a well-written document, created by an experienced, highly-competent international organization that is over 50 years old and has hundreds of thousands of members around the world. When they have difficulty interpreting and applying the rules, players look elsewhere for the cause, and hardly ever question the quality of the rules themselves.

2 thoughts on “What’s wrong with the FIPJP rules

  1. I’m not sure where the writer of this blog is located but I’ve always believed the US (and anyone else who is willing) should divorce itself from FIPJP and come up with its own body of rules and governing body.

    The French are notoriously bound to tradition and unwilling and unable to recognize their faults and correct them. Sadly, this limits the growth of the sport and, I think, will eventually strangle it completely.

    If petanque ever wants to be treated seriously it will treat the French as golf treats the Scots — “Thanks for this great sport… but we’ll take it from here.”


    1. Hi Snartie,
      My name is Steve Ferg. I’m the author of this blog. I live in Tucson, Arizona, USA.

      Petanque in the USA does have its own governing body (national federation)– the FPUSA (http://www.usapetanque.org/). For a number of years the FPUSA national rules actually did have minor differences from the FIPJP international rules. However, when the 2016 revision of the FIPJP rules came out, the FPUSA decided to adopt them without change, so that American players would be “playing by the same book” as other players all over the world. So, realistically speaking, the FIPJP controls the international rules, “official” international competitions, etc. That isn’t going to change.

      I agree that it is unlikely that the French will ever get their house in order. What national federations can do to mitigate this problem, at least locally, is to issue a document containing their own national federation “Rules Interpretations Guidelines for Umpires”. A few nations have done this– Petanque New Zealand is an outstanding example, although the Dutch and German national federations have also done so. FPUSA issued one in 2015, but withdrew it in 2017 after it adopted the new FIPJP rules.

      Another option is to step completely outside of this organizational structure and recognize that in non-FIPJP-sanctioned/non-umpired games, players can use whatever rules they wish. That’s what the Petanque Libre project is all about. Par les joueurs, pour les joueurs! 🙂


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