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Pétanque is played on any surface. However, by the decision of the Organising Committee or the Umpire, the teams may be asked to play on a marked and defined terrain. In this case, the terrain for National Championships and International Competitions, must have the following minimum dimensions: 15m long x 4m wide.
For other competitions the Federations may permit variations relative to these minimum dimensions, subject to them not being below 12m x 3m.
A playing area comprises of an indeterminate number of lanes defined by strings, the size of which must not interfere with the course of play. These strings marking separate lanes are not dead boule lines except for those marking the end of the lane and the exterior of the terrain.
When the lanes are placed end to end, the end lines connecting the lanes are dead ball
When the terrains of play are enclosed by barriers, these must be a minimum distance of 1 metre from the exterior line of the playing area.
Games are played to 13 points, with the possibility of leagues and qualifying heats being played to 11 points.
Some competitions can be organised within time limits. These must always be played within marked lanes and all the lines marking these lanes are dead boules lines.
The players must draw lots (toss a coin) to decide which team will choose the terrain, if it has not been allocated by the organisers, and to be the first to throw the jack.
If the lane has been designated by the organisers, the jack must be thrown on this lane. The teams concerned must not go to a different lane without the Umpire’s permission.
Any member of the team winning the draw chooses the starting point and traces or places a circle on the ground. However, a drawn circle may not measure less than 35cm or more than 50cm in diameter and be of a size that the feet of each player can fit entirely inside it.
Where a prefabricated circle is used, it must be rigid and have an internal diameter of 50cms (tolerance: + or – 2mm).
Folding circles are permitted but on condition they are of a model and the rigidity approved by the FIPJP.
The players are required to use the regulation circles provided by the organisers.
They must also accept the regulation circles, rigid or folding and approved by the FIPJP, provided by their opponent. If both teams have these circles the choice will be decided by the team that won the draw.
In all cases the circles must be marked before the jack is thrown.
The circle must be drawn (or placed) more than one metre from any obstacle and at least two metres from another throwing circle in use.
The team winning the toss or the previous end will have one attempt to throw a valid jack. If this jack is not valid it is handed to the opponent who may place it at any valid position on the designated terrain.
The team that is going to throw the jack must erase all throwing circles near the one it is going to use.
The interior of the circle can be completely cleared of grit/pebbles etc. during the end but must be put back in good order when the end is over.
The circle is not considered to be an out of bounds area.
The players’ feet must be entirely on the inside of the circle and not encroach on its perimeter and they must not leave it or be lifted completely off the ground until the thrown boule has touched the ground. No part of the body may touch the ground outside the circle. Any player not respecting this rule shall incur the penalties as provided in Article 35.
As an exception, those disabled in the lower limbs are permitted to place only one foot inside the circle. For players throwing from a wheelchair, at least one wheel (that on the side of the throwing arm) must rest inside the circle.
The throwing of the jack by one member of the team does not imply that he or she is obliged to be the first to play.
If a player picks up the circle when there are boules still to be played, the circle is replaced but only the opponents are allowed to play their boules.
For the thrown jack to be valid, the following conditions apply:
- That the distance separating it from the nearest edge of the circle may be between:
- 6 metres minimum and 10 metres maximum for Juniors and Seniors.
- For competitions intended for younger players shorter distances may be applied
- That the throwing circle may be a minimum of 1 metre from any obstacle and 2 metres from another circle in use.
- That the jack must be a minimum of 1 metre from any obstacle and from the nearest boundary of an out-of-bounds area. For timed limited games this distance is reduced to 50cm except for the end lines of the lane.
- That the jack must be visible to the player whose feet are placed astride the extreme limits of the interior of the circle and whose body is absolutely upright. In case of dispute on this point, the Umpire decides, without appeal, if the jack is visible.
At the following end the jack is thrown from a circle drawn or placed around the point where it finished at the previous end, except in the following cases:
- The circle would be less than 1 metre from an obstacle.
- The throwing of the jack could not be made to all regulation distances.
In the first case the player draws or places the circle at the regulation distance from the obstacle.
In the second case, the player may step back, in line with the previous end’s play, without exceeding the maximum distance authorised for the throwing of the jack. This opportunity is offered only if the jack cannot be thrown to the maximum distance in any other direction.
If the jack has not been thrown in accordance with the rules defined above, the opposing team will place the jack in a valid position on the terrain. They can also move the circle back, in accordance with the conditions defined in these rules, if the first teams positioning of the circle did not allow the jack to be thrown the maximum distance.
In any case, the team which lost the jack after the invalid throw must play the first boule.
The team that won the right to throw the jack have a maximum of one minute to do so. The team that won the right to place the jack after the unsuccessful throw of the opponent must do so immediately.
If the thrown jack is stopped by the Umpire, an opponent, a spectator, an animal or any moving object, it is not valid and must be thrown again.
If the thrown jack is stopped by a member of the team the opponent will place the jack in a valid position.
If after the throwing of the jack, a first boule is played, the opponent still has the right to contest the validity of its position except in the case when the jack has been placed by the opponent.
Before the jack is given to the opponent to place, both teams must have recognised that the throw was not valid or the Umpire must have decided it to be so. If any team proceeds differently, it loses the benefit of the throwing of the jack.
If the opponent has also played a boule, the jack is definitely deemed valid and no objection is admissible.
The jack is dead in the following 7 cases:
- When the jack is displaced into an out-of-bounds area, even if it comes back on to the authorised playing area. A jack straddling the boundary of an authorised terrain is valid. It becomes dead only after having completely crossed the boundary of the authorised terrain or the dead ball line, that is to say, when it lies entirely beyond the boundary when viewed from directly above. A puddle on which a jack floats freely is considered to be out-of-bounds.
- When, still on the authorised terrain, the moved jack is not visible from the circle, as defined in Article 7. However, a jack masked by a boule is not dead. The Umpire is authorised to temporarily remove a boule to declare whether the jack is visible.
- When the jack is displaced to more than 20 metres (for Juniors and Seniors) or 15 metres (for for the younger players), or less than 3 metres from the throwing circle
- When on marked out playing areas, the jack crosses more than one lane immediately to the side of the lane in use and when it crosses the end line of the lane.
- When the displaced jack cannot be found, the search time being limited to 5 minutes.
- When an out-of-bounds area is situated between the jack and the throwing circle.
- When, in time limited games, the jack leaves the designated playing area.
It is strictly forbidden for players to press down, displace or crush any obstacle whatever on the playing area. However, the player about to throw the jack is authorised to test the landing point with one of his or her boules by tapping the ground no more than three times. Furthermore, the player who is about to play, or one of his partners, may fill in a hole which would have been made by one boule played previously.
For not complying with this rule, especially in the case of sweeping in front of a boule to be shot, the players incur the penalties outlined in article 35.
Players are forbidden to change the jack or a boule during a game except in the following cases:
- The one or the other cannot be found, the search time being limited to 5 minutes.
- The one or the other is broken: in this case the largest part is taken into consideration. If boules remain to be played, it is immediately replaced, after measuring, if necessary, by a boule or a jack of identical or similar diameter. At the next end the player concerned can take a new complete set.