Training Manual

A guide for prospective Umpires


About this document
Unfortunately due to the constant evolution of the sport of petanque, its rules and various other by-laws, it is almost impossible to compile a manual that will not require ongoing amendments. This document is therefore a ‘guide’ rather than a comprehensive course. The written word, however, is no substitute for the benefits gained from ‘on the job’ experience during a tournament. 

Therefore, this document is intended to be used merely as a “stepping stone” and introduction to further instruction as deemed necessary for the individual’s needs. In it you will find advice for prospective umpires, some of the rules that are often misinterpreted and references to further reading.

So you want to be an Umpire?
“I want to be an umpire …. What do I need to know?”

The answer to this is, quite simply, ‘the rules’. There is of course, much more to being an umpire than simply knowing the rules and regulations, but it is an integral part of the job.

Before even contemplating sitting an umpire exam, regardless of level, you should read the rule book front to back including the local rules and interpretations on the PNZ website and be thoroughly conversant with all of the intricacies of your chosen sport.

Respect for the Umpire
It is a requirement that the players show respect towards the umpire but it does not necessarily follow that they will actually have respect for you. Respect cannot be demanded, nor can it be awarded or bestowed. It is only by carrying out your duties thoroughly and efficiently in a professional and courteous manner that you can ever hope to gain the respect of others.

With the attainment of Umpire status, there also comes great power and authority. Your decisions and actions can have an overwhelming impact, not only on the outcome of a game or tournament, but can also have great influence over a petanque player’s entire future.

The decisions that you make today, as well as your (mis)conduct or abuse of your powers and authorities can cause irrevocable damage to your reputation.

What type of umpire are you going to be?
The Emperor
Expects doffing of caps & bows on approach; demands absolute silence & attention during speeches & pronouncements.

The Pit-bull
A parking meter attendant by trade who roams continuously looking for rule infringements.

Had a good knowledge of the rules once; can anybody lend them a tape measure as they’ve left their kit at home.

Can be found in the bar with several bottles of their favourite tipple. Will lead the entertainment tonight after prize giving

In a state of unconcealed abject terror in case they make a mistake; can be found near the WC.

Always in a uniform covered in badges. Car registration plate….UMP1RE.

Sickness beneficiary
Has Disabled Parking Permit. Unable to kneel or get up without assistance. Will only attend if venue is compact as can only hobble 20 metres without resting.

Techno freak
Has every measuring device known including microscope, GPS & theodolite. Laptop computer on line for all eventualities.

Admired and respected
Has a good balance of all the above traits.

Measuring Equipment
The list of equipment that you may be required to use in the course of a tournament is quite comprehensive:  See the full list of requirements for an Umpires Kit on the PNZ website.

  • Long measure: For distances up to 20 metres
  • Ordinary tape measure: For distances that do not require pinpoint accuracy and whose difference can be ascertained without doubt. For example, a ‘quick’ measure that shows a difference of say 5 mm needs no closer scrutiny. Care should be taken to avoid falling foul of ‘error of parallax’.

                 measuring tape

  • Folding Measure: Preferred internationally by Umpires for its accuracy and visibility, this measure is a segmented “ruler” with a metal slide at one end.
  • Callipers: For distances, which are too close to allow for the use of a folded measure.
  • Feeler strips: As used by motor mechanics, a set of feeler strips/gauges are sometimes necessary to measure distances of only a few thousandths of a millimetre (ie when two boules are almost touching the Jack and the difference in the gap can not be visibly gauged without doubt.
  • Other Items needed: Small spike for marking positions of boules/jack, whistle, pen, notepad, rulebook, cloth for drying/cleaning tape and possibly a kneepad, torch and boule chocks.

As an umpire, one of the tasks that you will be called on to perform (in fact the main task) is the measurement of the point.  Players should be encouraged to attempt to ascertain the position of the point, before calling on an umpire.  Many times umpires have been called to a game to discover more than 10 mm difference between the boules being measured.  On a busy day, this “overuse” of the umpire can disrupt the smooth running of a competition when there are teams forced to wait for a genuine ruling especially in timed games.

Article 25In this article of the F.I.P.J.P. Regulations it states, “the measuring of a point is the responsibility of the player who played the last boule or one of his/her team mates. Opponents still have the right to re-measure the point after one of these players.  Whatever positions the boules hold, and at whatever stage the end may be, the Umpire may be called to adjudicate and his/her decision is final ”.

Quite often, neither team has any measuring equipment. This brings into effect, the second part of the paragraph, which reads: “Measuring must be done with appropriate equipment, which each team must possess ”.

The following instruction is included in PNZ entry forms: The tournament rules & conditions can be found in full on the PNZ website "By completing the entry form entrants have agreed to abide by these rules".

Estimation of distance – Throw of the Jack:
The only correct method of measuring is with the appropriate measuring equipment.

Most players however, will ‘step out’ the distance prior to playing a boule to estimate the validity of the throw. There are differing views as to the correct way to step out the distance from the inside of the circle to the Jack. Some argue that you should start with the back of the heel on the inside of the circle. Others will say that the toe should be level with the inside front of the circle, thus ensuring a more accurate toe-to-toe measurement.

It does not really matter how one steps out the distance as it is after all, an estimation.

Additionally, it must be remembered that it is forbidden to measure a point with one’s feet. This will often lead to the accidental movement of boules on the ground, followed by quite irrational behaviour of the affected party.

Players who do not observe these rules may be penalised by using one or more of the sanctions as defined in Article 34 (warning, disqualification of the boule played or about to be played, exclusion of the guilty player for one end, exclusion of the guilty player for the game, disqualification of the guilty team, disqualification of both teams in the case of complicity) if, after receiving a warning from the Umpire, they continue to do so.

Before you Measure:
If you are called to measure a close point there are a few basic procedures that you should follow:

  • First of all, you should assess the layout and if possible, make a mental estimation as to the boule that is holding the point.
  • Mark the positions of both the jack and the boules to be measured.
  • If need be note in your notepad the positions of the boule and the jack for reference.
  • Ascertain whether there are any unplayed boules remaining. If not, it may be possible to remove any obstacle boules or boules that are obviously ‘out of the count’. If either of the teams have boules remaining, obstacle boules may be removed after having their positions marked and replaced immediately after measuring.
  • Decide on the most appropriate equipment to be used (folding measure, callipers etc).
  • Measure the point, mark the holding boule and inform the players of your decision.
  • Replace any moved boule to its original position
  • In timed games haste is of the essence, be organised.

Note: You may if you wish, direct players to stand a reasonable distance, usually three metres away whilst you are measuring.  Players should remain silent and abstain from commenting or moving about and casting shadows, which may distract you from your task.  Any non­compliance with your directions and/or requests may be dealt with by any disciplinary action as deemed appropriate, according to the nature of the misdemeanour.

’Over-damaging’ of the terrain when marking the positions of the boules and/or Jack should be avoided where possible.  On occasion, it may be necessary to use wedges to ‘choc’ a boule or the jack, protecting it against movement.  Remember that the condition of the terrain must be restored on completion of measuring to allow the game to continue without advantage to any team or player.

After Measuring:
Mark the holding boule for the benefit of both teams and to avoid having to remeasure the point again.

Do not allow yourself to be drawn into a debate with any player or players with regards to your ruling. Be firm and decisive then walk away.

It is acceptable (in fact advisable) to leave the marks that indicate the position of boule or jack, but these must not be so prominent as to constitute an obstruction should the boule or jack be moved validly by another boule.

Marking the Boule or the Jack:

The purpose of marking a jack or a boule is simple; so that if they are moved from their position for any reason (measuring, identification, displacement), the marking lines can be continued through the right angle to complete a cross. This will show the centre point of where the boule/jack was originally positioned, and the boule/jack can be replaced.

There are four criteria that must be met in order to mark a jack or boule correctly: (see Fig 2a and 2b for examples)

a) a minimum of two lines must be drawn (3 or 4 is also acceptable).
b) The lines must be drawn at right angles to each other.
c) Lines must be at a depth and length according to the relevant playing surface so they can be clearly seen but without affecting the run of the boule.
d) No line must be facing the playing circle or the jack

Marking the position of a boule for removal by tapping it into the ground is not acceptable under any circumstances and should be penalised.
correct markings

incorrect markings

Performing a measurement 

There are many ways to perform a measurement, but very few of them are correct. It is not enough to come armed with all the latest ‘gadgets’ and umpiring paraphernalia if you do not know the correct way to use them.

So how do you measure a point? Players often measure from the boule to the centre of the jack – this is incorrect. It may sometimes be employed for a “quick” measure, where there is a substantial difference in the distances being measured, but the distance required to be measured is the distance between the closest points of the boule and the jack.

Using a folding measure:
As stated previously, the internationally recognised apparatus of choice for measuring short distances between the boule and the jack is the folding measure. With this apparatus, it is possibleto measure with precision, distances from between 115 mm up to 1.1 metres.   As with all measuring equipment, it is imperative for the correct technique to be employed when using the folding measure.

After marking boules and jack as necessary and making mental estimation and note:

Open the folding measure to the approximate distance whilst holding away from the boule.

  • The measure should be kept in a right angle to allow for a firm grasp at the boule end to aid in stability.
  • Hold the measure just away from the boule and jack and push the slide out a fraction at a time until you are just (and only just) short of touching the jack.
  • Move the measure into position. The protruding “stub” should be placed against the boule with the smallest amount of light visible between the end of the measure (slide) and the jack.
  • Apply step 4 to the second boule. If there is no doubt as to which boule is closer, announce your decision to the players. If the difference cannot be
  • judged without doubt, repeat steps 3 and 4, making more precise adjustments until you are able to make a decision.

Attention should be paid to maintaining the correct horizontal positioning on the boule.

extended measureUsing a tape measure:
It is considered by many people, that an accurate measurement is not possible with the use of a tape measure. It is however possible to be reasonably accurate using a tape, but care must be taken to use the correct technique.

  • The tip of the tape should be placed lightly on the closest part of the boule.
  • Extend the tape past the jack and as close to the top of the jack as possible without touching it.
  • Read the measurement and repeat for the other boule. (make as many measurements as you feel is necessary, to be certain of a correct decision).

You should position yourself so that your line of sight is directly at 90º to the edge of the distance being measured. This will avoid inaccurate measurements due to error of parallax as illustrated below.

Although the tip of the tape is positioned correctly on the boule, this exaggerated example shows how easily an inaccurate result can be obtained by the line of sight not being positioned as close as possible on top of the jack. Coupled with the distance that the tape is being held over the jack,the error will magnify in accordance with an increased hight of the tape.

line of sight

In this example, the chance of “parallax error” has been greatly reduced by the lowering of the tape and the positioning of the line of sight directly above the point being measured.

line of sight 2

Using Callipers:
Using Callipers, the same care should be observed as for the previous examples, to ensure the correct positioning on the boule and the jack. One point of the callipers should rest lightly on the boule and be lifted away slightly whilst adjusting, to avoid the possibility of disturbing the jack in the instance of the callipers ‘springing’ open.

calipersUsing Feeler Strips:
There will be times where 2 or more boules are almost touching the jack, but with the slightest gap evident. On these occasions, it is necessary to use feeler strips (also known as feeler gauges) to measure the difference between. For this task, it is imperative that both the boules and the jack are marked. Then with steady hand, the strip is slipped alongside the boule and the jack before repeating for the other boule and comparing the difference between. If light is still visible between the strip and the boule, take the next thickness and remeasure until a decision can be ascertained.

 feeler strips

Note: Great care must be taken when using this type of equipment. Whatever your choice of equipment, correct technique is of utmost importance.


Marking a Terrain in accordance with F.I.P.J.P. specifications

marked terrain

Interpretation of the rules
In a perfect world, all decisions and outcomes would be clear-cut. It is, however, not always the case when it comes to petanque.  Despite constant efforts and amendments by the International Congress, the official FIPJP rules still seem to be open to interpretation (or misinterpretation) by those not educated in the precise meanings of certain articles.

Interpretation of the rules and their application is one of the “greyer” areas (from the point of view of a player) with which the umpire must contend. Some basic clarification of some of the rules are set out in a separate section labelled "Interpretations"

This manual is reproduced by permission of Pete Beaumont (from the Australian Petanque Umpires Commission with amendments)

Technical Director of Umpiring
Updated December 2014

© Copyright Petanque NZ 2020