Boules played out of turn – comparing FIPJP and PL

A recent question on Mike Pegg’s “Ask the umpire” forum provides a good opportunity for comparing and contrasting the FIPJP rules and the rules of Petanque Libre. The purpose of this discussion is not to pass judgement on the merits of these rules. It is simply to point out the differences between the two sets of rules with regard to one specific kind of situation.

Steve Frampton asked about a situation that occurred during a recent competition. Here is my paraphrase of his question.

Team A is holding the point. Ben, on team B, throws boule B2. B2 doesn’t gain the point, but it bumps the jack closer to B1, team B’s first boule. Team A sees that the jack has been moved, but says nothing. Ben, standing in the circle, doesn’t realize that B2 has moved the jack. Ben and team B don’t go to the head to inspect the situation on the ground. Team B doesn’t think that are holding, so they continue pointing.

Team B points 3 boules (B3, B4, B5), none of which disturbs any of the balls already on the ground. The last boule clearly calls for a closer inspection of the situation around the jack. As the teams inspect the situation, they discover that Ben’s boule B2 had actually gained the point when it bumped the jack toward B1.

At this point, the question is— Team B threw 3 boules “contrary to the rules”, right? What should be done? Is it relevant that team A saw that B2 moved the jack, but said nothing?

We can take Mike’s opinion, which was shared by the consensus of comments on the question, as the FIPJP position on this question. It has three parts.

  1. After throwing B2, it was team B’s responsibility to verify that they didn’t have the point before throwing their next boule. They didn’t do that, so the fault for the boules played out-of-turn lies entirely with team B.
  2. Boules B3, B4, and B5 were thrown “contrary to the rules”. Therefore, under the provisions of Article 24, team A has the choice of deciding whether each boule is dead or still valid. Team A has the right to declare all three of the boules to be dead.
  3. When team A saw that B2 moved the jack, team A were under no obligation whatsoever to say “you may have moved the jack”.

The last point seems to fly in the face of our ordinary sense of fairness. Surely, one thinks, team A had a moral obligation, if not an obligation under the FIPJP rules, to speak up when they saw that B2 had moved the jack. The umpire at the competition where this situation occurred apparently shared this opinion— he ruled that it would be unfair to disqualify all three boules, and told team A that they could choose to disqualify one, and only one, of the three boules.

Note also that part #2, the assertion that the three boules were thrown contrary to the rules, is actually an interpretion of the expression “thrown contrary to the rules”, and an interpretation that is not universally shared. A rules interpretation by Petanque New Zealand, for instance, says “Boules played out of turn are not considered as an infringement to the rules [as “boules thrown contrary to the rules”] but indeed as a mistake. Players making such a mistake penalise themselves by reducing or losing the ‘boule advantage’. In conclusion, players do not incur any penalty, and boule(s) are valid and stay in place.”

If we now turn to the rules of Petanque Libre (PL), two things are worth noting.

First— PL rules, unlike FIPJP rules, contain provisions that explicitly deal with just this kind of situation. The PL rules are designed for use by players in games where no umpires are present to provide rules interpretations. The PL rules consequently need to be so clear and explicit that questions of “interpretation” or “fairness” simply never arise.

Second— PL’s treatment of this kind of situation (in the DECIDING WHICH TEAM THROWS NEXT section) is different from the consensus interpretation of the FIPJP rules that we’ve just presented. PL (version 5, the latest version) says—

It is the responsibility of both teams to reach an agreement about which team has the point and which team should throw the next boule.

If both teams agree on which team should throw the next boule, and that team throws the next boule, the boule is considered to have been legally thrown. The legality of the thrown boule cannot be changed by subsequent measurements or discoveries (e.g. a measurement for the point or the discovery of a forgotten boule).

A team that has the opportunity to challenge the point, but does not challenge it and lets the opposing team play the next boule, is considered to have agreed that the opposing team should throw the next boule.


In our example situation:

  • FIPJP: It is the responsibility of one team and one team only to determine whether or not it is their turn to throw.
  • PL: It is the responsibility of both teams to reach an agreement about which team has the point and which team should throw the next boule.


  • FIPJP: Team A did not have any obligation or responsibility to speak up when they saw B2 move the jack.
  • PL: Team A did have a responsibility to speak up. Because they remained silent when they could easily have spoken up, team A is considered to have agreed that team B should throw the next boule.

and when it is discovered that B2 had gained the point:

  • FIPJP: Team B’s three boules were thrown “contrary to the rules”, so under the provisions of Article 24 Team A may declare team B’s three boules to be dead.
  • PL: No boules are declared to be dead. Since both teams had agreed that team B should throw those boules, they were legally thrown.

This is, I think, an accurate comparison of the FIPJP rules (or at least: the consensus interpretation of the FIPJP rules) and the PL rules regarding boules thrown out-of-turn.

See also the post A boule thrown out of turn on the Rules of Petanque blog.

5 thoughts on “Boules played out of turn – comparing FIPJP and PL

  1. The heart of the problem here is that on the one hand, there is ‘official’ interpretation of the rules and on the other ‘how the game should be played’ and what is the ‘sporting’ thing to do. According to the description given, Team B was at fault for playing without bothering to properly check whether they had the point or not. Of course, you can argue whether or not Team A did the sporting thing in letting Team B continue to play. (See my comment at the end.)

    I always remember a similar incident that happend to me during a competition — again, a lesson on “how the game should be played”. We Team A played our first boule and stood 2m away from the jack. Team B stood behind the circle and played maybe 3 boules in *very* quick succession, again without checking who had the point. One of their players decided to walk to the jack and asked us who had the point. We replied, “I think it’s probably your first boule but you need to check.” They measured and indeed, their first boule was holding, at which point they accused us of cheating by not telling them and letting them continue to play. We politely pointed out that a) it was their responsibility to check before playing and b) they played their boules so fast, they gave us no time to tell them!

    So, the lesson in “how the game should be played”: your team should be standing by the jack to evaluate the end before playing. Do *not* wait passively behind the circle,waiting for the opponents to tell you when you can play. Do not play your boules in quick succession, a) without checking who has the point and b) without making any tactical decision.

    BTW In answer to the original question, would I tell the opponents they were closer? My answer is “it depends”. If the game was being played in a friendly, cooperative manner, yes, I probably would — assuming they didn’t play too quickly. 🙂 If the opponents had been unfriendly in their approach, no, I probably wouldn’t.

    These are the sorts of things you can’t stipulate in the rules *because* they are more about “how to play the game”, rather than, “what is the letter of the law?”.


    1. Hi Ray,

      I have a different perspective on the problem.

      In my view the fundamental question here is: When such situations occur, how do we deal with them?

      The fundamental difference between PL and FIPJP is that PL has a “no-fault policy” for dealing with such situations.

      Under PL’s no-fault policy, questions of “sportsmanship” and “how should the game be played” and “what should Team X have done?” simply never come up. Players simply accept that boules were played out-of-turn, leave everything where it is, and carry on with the game.

      The FIPJP policy is the opposite of a no-fault policy: it is a “determine the party at fault and impose a penalty” policy. Such a policy automatically generates questions about who was at fault and where penalties should be imposed. In the context of such a policy (and I would say: ONLY in such a context) do questions like “how should the game be played” and “what is the sporting thing to do” come to be, and be seen as, important and problematic.


  2. I understand the point you’re making, I think. An event has occurred : what is the ruling? It really boils down to: what is the umpire’s view (the narrower view) vs what is the coach’s approach (the broader picture)?

    OK, we can compare, “What would happen in an official game, of course played to the rules and perhaps, with an umpire on hand to adjudicate?” — with, what would you do in a ‘friendly’ game, i.e. where there is no umpire present and players have to sort things out themselves (where you could agree to a) leave everything where it is and continue the game or b) if you’re feeling generous and are willing to help Team B improve their understanding of the game, allow them to replay the boules played in error/out of turn.

    But I think the broader picture is more important and more interesting, hence my comments about how the game should be played. To repeat, that really is the nub of the issue: Team B played without bothering to check who held the point. Ok, you can say, “The ruling is…”, i.e. “the umpire’s” reponse, or you can examine, “what is the correct way to play the game?”, i.e. “the coach’s” approach.


    1. Hi Ray, I should have read your first comment more carefully.

      When it comes to coaching or telling players how the game should be played, I absolutely agree. There is no question that you are correct. As you wrote–

      Your team should be standing by the jack to evaluate the end before playing. Do *not* wait passively behind the circle,waiting for the opponents to tell you when you can play. Do not play your boules in quick succession, a) without checking who has the point and b) without making any tactical decision.


  3. Well, this is not a true and clear expression and it is a bit unfair to FIPJP rules. No hard feelings, though, lads, I know your life and death is petanque libre, whatever that means. You just read FIPJP rules not as a whole, but sentence by sentence. FIPJP rules say that the team who plays the last boule can do the measurement, not the opposite team. That is why it is CORRECTLY only team B´s responsibility to either continue throwing or leave the pitch for the opposite team. If they are lazy, if they make a queue behind the circle like if they wait for the shop to be open on black friday (= none of team B is close to the game – jack and boules, that is), that is no point for the team A to advise team B. They should play properly.


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