Petanque Libre 2021-06-01 is now available

The Petanque Libre Project is happy to announce the release of version 2021-06-01 of the Rules of Petanque Libre. The version home page is HERE.

In an effort to simplify exposition and facilitate translation into other languages, many paragraphs were revised or rewritten. Partly due to these efforts, a rough but usable French translation is available for this version.

In an effort to arrange the rules more logically, some sections and paragraphs were merged, split, or moved. The rules themselves have not changed substantially, but in some cases the way that they are described has. More information about specific changes is available on the version home page.

Le Projet de Pétanque Libre est heureux d’annoncer la sortie de la version 2021-06-01 des règles de Pétanque Libre. La page d’accueil de la version est ICI.

El Proyecto Petanca Libre se complace en anunciar el lanzamiento de la versión 5,0 de las reglas de Petanca Libre a partir del 01 de enero de 2019. La página de inicio de la versión 5 está aquí.

Must teams ALWAYS measure?

I just saw a ruling from Mike Pegg on “Ask the Umpire” that really highlights the differences between Petanque Libre and FIPJP petanque.

The question that was put to Mike (I’ve slightly rephrased it) was:

Team A and Team B throw one boule each. They agree that Team A has the point, so Team B plays its second boule, which doesn’t touch the jack or any other boules. Team B then measures and reports that they have 2 points.

This implies that, despite the the teams’ agreement after the first two boules were played, Team B’s boule had the point and Team A, not Team B, should have played next.

Mike’s ruling was that Team A may declare Team B’s second boule to be dead.

To decide if a boule is holding the point, the teams must measure— simply agreeing is not acceptable. In your scenario, the teams should have measured. Because team B was already holding the point, they have played “out of turn” (art 16) making their second boule invalid.

This is quite different from Petanque Libre

If both teams agree on which team should play next, and that team plays the next boule, then the boule is considered to have been played legally, even if the teams later discover that the opposing team should have played next.

Playing by the rules of Petanque Libre, Team B did not play out of turn and Team B’s second boule is not dead.

I think that there are two points worth making here.

The first is that Mike has said, quite clearly, that teams must ALWAYS measure after every boule is thrown. [1] This is of course ridiculous. It shows the absurd lengths to which an umpire will go when trying to interpret rules written by and for umpires.

The second is that measurement, in and of itself, means nothing. All that you have in a game is agreement between the teams. Consider a slightly different scenario.

Team A and Team B throw one boule each. They measure and agree that Team A has the point, so Team B plays its second boule, which doesn’t touch the jack or any other boules. Team B then measures and reports that they have 2 points.

What are we to make of this situation? Clearly something has gone wrong, but we don’t know what. Whatever it was, measuring didn’t prevent it. Perhaps the measurement was wrong. Perhaps the jack or one of the boules was moved without either team noticing. Who knows? And what should the teams do?

My point is that measuring isn’t a magic wand that you can wave and solve all your problems. Measuring, in and of itself, means nothing. ALL that you have in a game is agreement between the teams. Measuring is nothing more than a tool that the teams can use to help them in coming to an agreement. What’s important is the agreement; not the measuring. Hence the position of Petanque Libre.

If both teams agree on which team should play next, and that team plays the next boule, then the boule is considered to have been played legally, even if the teams later discover that the opposing team should have played next.

FOOTNOTES
[1] Mike reaffirms his position in a related post [underlining is mine]— “The friendly agreement of which boule is holding has no value – the teams must measure because only then can you be sure.”

Petanque Libre 2021-01-01 is now available

The Petanque Libre Project is happy to announce the release of version 2021-01-01 of the Rules of Petanque Libre.

The version home page is HERE. This version, 2021b, incorporates only two changes from the 2020 version.

  • The terminology of a “decided point” and “undecided point” has been removed, and replaced by “when one of the teams has the point” and “when there is a null point”. This corresponds more closely to the French-language FIPJP rules and should make it easier to translate the rules of Petanque Libre into French.
     
  • The recent revision of the FIPJP rules removed the rule forbidding players from “moistening” their boules. We think that was a good idea, so the corresponding rule has been removed from Petanque Libre. As a result the ID numbers of all paragraphs after 73 have decreased by one, and PL now has 98 paragraphs rather than 99.

Last year’s release proved to be remarkably stable. As I said two years ago

I see the rules of petanque as almost timeless: a traditional activity that we have inherited. If we can get the traditional rules written down properly, then they should be stable and (ideally) there would be no reason to change them. … I expect the pace of revisions to slow down and eventually to come to a halt, or nearly to a halt. … I think we’re very close to having a stable, final version of the rules of Petanque Libre.

Le Projet de Pétanque Libre est heureux d’annoncer la sortie de la version 2021 des règles de Pétanque Libre. La page d’accueil de la version est ICI.


El Proyecto Petanca Libre se complace en anunciar el lanzamiento de la versión 2021 de las reglas de Petanca Libre. La página de inicio de la versión está aquí.

Rules of Petanque Libre v2020

The Petanque Libre Project is happy to announce the release of Version 2020-01-01 of the Rules of Petanque Libre.

This version of the rules has been substantially rewritten in order to increase clarity and to facilitate translation into other languages. The version home page is HERE.

Le Projet de Pétanque Libre est heureux d’annoncer la sortie de la version 2020-01-01 des règles de Pétanque Libre. La page d’accueil de la version est ICI.

El Proyecto Petanca Libre se complace en anunciar el lanzamiento de la versión 5,0 de las reglas de Petanca Libre a partir del 01 de enero de 2019. La página de inicio de la versión 5 está aquí.

An interview with Steve Ferg about the Petanque Libre project

Suppose that you meet a petanque player that has never heard of the Petanque Libre project (PL). How would you describe it to him or her?

Well, I would describe Petanque Libre as a project to develop a new set of rules for the game of petanque that is “open” in the sense that international “open standards” are open, i.e. not proprietary to any one company. Right now the international rules of petanque are basically proprietary; the FIPJP owns them, they are the private property of the FIPJP. Petanque Libre is a project to develop a set of the rules that is not owned by the FIPJP. I chose the name “Petanque Libre” because the French word “libre” (open, free) also means “independent”.

The second thing I would say is that the PL rules are designed specifically for use in games where there are no umpires. The FIPJP rules are designed for use in organized, umpired competitions. They are quite badly written, especially the parts that cover illegal actions. But the FIPJP gets away with it because if there is a question about the rules in an FIPJP-organized competition, there is always an FIPJP-certified umpire available to render a final (if perhaps arbitrary) decision. The FIPJP also gets away with it because participants in organized, umpired competitions tend to be experienced players that are not likely to violate the rules. In contrast, the PL rules are designed for use by grass-roots players in friendly games without umpires. Less-experienced players often make mistakes or accidentally do something illegal, and they need a set of rules that is explicit and clear enough that they can understand the rules, and apply the rules themselves without an umpire. That’s the need that the rules of Petanque Libre are designed to meet.

So, to put it in a nutshell, Petanque Libre is a new set of rules for the game of petanque. The PL rules are owned by the players, not by the FIPJP. The PL rules are designed by and for players, not by and for umpires. They are designed to be usable by grass-roots players during friendly, non-umpired games.

Is it important for there to be another version of the rules? What’s wrong with the FIPJP rules?

For one thing, the FIPJP rules are just plain badly-written. The FIPJP has had over 50 years in which to write a good set of rules and it is clear by now that that just isn’t going to happen. The other thing is that the FIPJP rules aren’t really rules for the game of petanque. They are a combination of rules of the game, guidelines for umpires, and rules about how FIPJP competitions should be run. Article 4, for instance, specifies that in order to register for a competition a player must present his/her membership card in an FIPJP national federation. That kind of stuff is not about how you play the game of petanque! One of the goals of the PL project is to strip out all of the extraneous stuff and to write down, as clearly as possible, the rules of the game. JUST the rules of the game. The rules of the game and NOTHING BUT the rules of the game.

How would you describe the differences between the FIPJP rules and the PL rules?

The most important difference is in how the two sets of rules handle illegal events. Here is an example. Suppose a player accidentally picks up one of the opposing team’s boules before all boules have been thrown. The location of the boule is not marked. If an FIPJP umpire is called, he will probably apply a strict interpretation of Article 27 and declare the boule dead, despite the fact that the boule belonged to the opposing team. (The offending player may be given a warning, a yellow card.) In contrast, the PL rules call for the teams to reach a decision that they consider to be fair and mutually agreeable. They will probably agree simply to put the boule back (in a location that both teams agree is pretty close to its original location). And then they will carry on with the game as if nothing happened. They will, in effect, un-do the illegal event. In contrast, an FIPJP umpire (without a marked location, which hardly ever exists) can’t undo an illegal action.

Another important difference is that the PL rules are much more clearly written than the FIPJP rules. They have to be. They have to be clear enough that ordinary players can understand and apply them, because there are no umpires around to do that job for them. I put a lot of effort into trying to make the rules clear and explicit. For example, the PL rules contain a lot of definitions. I don’t think that there are any definitions in the FIPJP rules. The most notorious example, of course, is the word “obstacle”. It is an important word in the FIPJP rules, but it is never defined. By comparison, the stand-alone word “obstacle” never occurs in the PL rules, but two specific terms— “throwing obstacle” and “pointing obstacle”— do, and both are explicitly defined.

Could the players agree to put an illegally-moved boule or jack back, even if its original location wasn’t marked?

Yes, certainly. If they are playing by the PL rules.

When an umpire is called in to make a decision, FIPJP rules forbid the umpire from making a decision based on the (possibly conflicting) stories provided by the competing teams. The FIPJP rules require an umpire to base his decisions only on marks that he can see on the ground. That’s why the FIPJP rules are obsessed with marks on the ground. But there is no reason for the rules of Petanque Libre to be obsessed with marks on the ground. Marks on the ground hardly appear in the rules of Petanque Libre. If the original location of the boule was marked, then of course those marks will help the teams to restore the boule to its original location. But the teams can do that even if there are no marks on the ground.

How big is the project? The editorial committee or whatever you call it… how many members does it have?

Right now there is only me. I started the project and right now I am the only member of the working committee. Whenever somebody starts an open standards project, it’s a gamble. You never know whether the project is going to attract the support of a lot of other like-minded people or whether no one is going to be interested. Right now the PL project is at the stage where it has run the flag up the flag pole and we’re waiting to see if anybody salutes it. We just have to wait and see what happens.

Is your goal to replace the FIPJP rules with the Petanque Libre rules?

Absolutely not. Only the FIPJP can set the rules of play for its own competitions. The rules of Petanque Libre are designed to be used outside of FIPJP-sanctioned competitions, or more specifically, outside of umpired competitions.

You say that the PL rules are designed to be used in non-umpired games. Still… would it be possible to use them in an umpired competition?

Yes, I think so. I don’t think it would be difficult. The last PL rule is the Consensus Rule, which says that any of the other rules may be changed, waived, supplemented, or over-ridden by agreement of the teams. In an organized, umpired competition you’d want to replace that with a rule that says that in a problematic situation where the two teams cannot reach a mutually agreeable resolution, an umpire will be called in to render a decision.

Along with umpires, of course, would come all of the machinery of the penalty system: colored cards, warnings, penalties, disqualified boules, etc. Ideally that machinery would be described in a separate document, and the competition rules would specify that the competition would be conducted using a combination of the PL rules and the rules in that document.

The FIPJP really should write such a document. You can find pieces of the penalty system in the FIPJP rules, but they are fragmentary and described very badly. They really need to be pulled out into a document of their own. And improved, of course.

Would the PL project ever consider trying to develop such a document: an open umpire’s guide?

No, we’d never try to do that. The certification of umpires, the development of guidelines for umpires, and the running of umpired competitions— these are all different things from the pure rules of the game. Right now they are de facto the concerns of the FIPJP and the national federations, and PL has no desire to compete with FIPJP in that area. Only the FIPJP has the authority to develop an umpire’s guide for its own umpires, to tell them how to do their jobs.

In the last few years FPUSA and Petanque New Zealand have made a good start on developing umpire’s guides for their respective national federations. The Netherlands and Germany have had rules-interpretations documents for a number of years. I’d love to see an international effort, with the national umpires committees of the USA, Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, etc. working together to develop a trans-national English-language umpire’s guide. If that happened, it would be useful in and of itself. But it could also be a model for an international umpire’s guide. But right now that’s just my fantasy. I don’t know of anyone else who is thinking along those lines.

Earlier you said that at the beginning of an open standards project there is no way to tell whether it will flourish or flounder. Suppose the PL project did flourish. What would it do? Where would it go next?

My view is that petanque should be viewed as a traditional activity with a traditional set of rules, like (say) of chess. The FIPJP rules are a modified form of that traditional game: the FIPJP version of the game has been modified and adapted to the conditions of large organized competitions. It is hardly surprising, then, that every few years the FIPJP tweaks and changes its rules to meet the changing needs of large organized competitions. In contrast, I see the rules of petanque as almost timeless: a traditional activity that we have inherited. If we can get the traditional rules written down properly, then they should be stable and (ideally) there would be no reason to change them. That’s the goal of the Petanque Libre project.

Of course in the first year of the project there have been three or four revisions to the PL rules. But that is a normal process of shaking out the bugs at the beginning of a project— you can’t get everything right on your first try. So I expect the pace of revisions to slow down and eventually to come to a halt, or nearly to a halt. The goals of the project are inherently limited in scope. I do NOT see a future of endlessly revising and issuing new versions of the PL rules. Actually, right now I think we’re very close to having a stable, final version of the rules of Petanque Libre. We’ll see…

If the project really were to flourish, there are a couple of things that I can see happening. The first, which could be done once the rules have stabilized, is for the rules of Petanque Libre to be translated into French. Right now the project is being carried out in English, and the canonical version of the rules of Petanque Libre is the English-language text available on the Petanque Libre web site, petanquelibre.wordpress.com. But petanque is a French game, and a really flourishing PL project would mean making the PL rules available to French-speaking players. And then, perhaps, to Spanish, German, Thai, who knows?

Also, if PL really begins to flourish, I think players will generate new questions about the rules. The rules of PL are designed to be clear and explicit, so (at least in theory) they should generate fewer questions and confusions than the FIPJP rules do. But it is impossible to write rules all of which are always absolutely clear to everybody. Players will certainly come up with new questions about the implications and interpretations of the rules. It is questions like those that the notes attached to the PL rules are designed to address. So even if the rules themselves remain stable, it is likely that the notes attached to the rules will need to be updated more frequently than the rules themselves.

But the bottom line is that, even if PL explodes in popularity, the plans for future project activity are quite modest.

Finally, let me ask about the Petanque Libre logo. Is there some symbolism there?

Well, it is based on the old Chinese yin-yang symbol. I didn’t have any symbolism in mind while I was designing it, but now when I look at it I see two teams playing a game of petanque. They are competing, yet they are playing harmoniously in a single self-contained whole, a game, without any need for a third party (an umpire).


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.