WB Laws Decisions
The WB Laws Committee (LC) occasionally receives from WB Member National Authorities (MNAs) enquiries asking for decisions on various aspects of the Laws of the Sport of Bowls – such as clarification on the intent of, and guidance on the interpretation of, a specific law. Where these enquiries are considered to be of general interest, the enquiry and accompanying LC decision has been included in this section of the WB website.
The current edition of the Laws of the Sport of Bowls is the Crystal Mark Third Edition which was approved by MNAs on 2nd August 2014. The LC is of the opinion that requests for decisions on laws which pre-date the Third Edition should continue to be shown on the website if the wording of the law under question has not changed in the current edition. The law numbers on the original requests, however, have been revised to reflect those in the Third Edition.
February 2018 – Bowls Scotland
Law 33 describes the action to be taken when a player leaves the green during the course of play.
There are multiple reasons why a player may have to leave the green and multiple situations in which this may occur. The Laws Committee (LC) does not consider it appropriate to describe all of these within the Laws (even if it could!). Rather, its approach is to define a ‘broad brush’ law which Controlling Bodies can supplement by including more detailed / specific procedures in their Conditions of Play.
In the light of uncertainty being expressed by Controlling Bodies about what can be included in their procedures. the LC would like to clarify some elements of the law, give examples of what are and what are not permissible reasons for leaving the green and provide guidelines on how the law should be applied.
Laws Committee Clarification:
Law 33.1 states that “No player must delay play by leaving the rink of play or their team unless their opponent agrees, and then only for no more than 10 minutes.”. To clarify:
- regardless of the reason, a player who wishes to leave the rink of play must receive their opponent’s agreement before doing so. By giving their agreement, the opponent accepts that some delay to play may occur as a result.
- the requirement to receive the opponent’s agreement applies even if there is no perceived risk of play being delayed as a result. (For example, a Lead in a Fours game who has delivered their two bowls in a specific end would be complying with this law if, having received their opponent’s agreement, they leave the rink of play for a ‘toilet break’ and return in sufficient time to play their first bowl of the succeeding end.)
- if the opponent does not give their permission, the matter should be referred to an umpire (law 40.1.5)
- if there is a risk that play will be delayed as a result of a player leaving the rink, the remaining sections of law 33 come into consideration.
Laws 33.2 (leaving the green in a team or side game) and 33.7 (leaving the green in a Singles game) state that a player can only leave the green due to illness or some other reasonable cause. To clarify:
- examples of illness include any suffering caused by pre-existing medical conditions and potential health emergencies arising during the game (e.g. bee or wasp stings, heat stroke)
- examples of other reasonable causes include injuries sustained during the course of play and responding to an emergency ‘phone call
- examples of causes which are not reasonable include taking a cigarette break, making a non-urgent ‘phone call and taking repeated toilet breaks when there is no underlying medical condition.
Laws Committee Guidelines:
The Controlling Body for an event must decide on, and publicise in advance, the Conditions of Play (COP) for that event (reference law A.1 in Appendix A of the Laws). To address any issues which may arise when a player delays play by leaving the green, the LC recommends that Controlling Bodies include the following in their COP (the LC acknowledges that approaches taken by Controlling Bodies will differ – for example, due to the use of slow-play regulations and the need for time-limits to be stringently applied):
- Procedures for dealing with the situation in which a player has to leave the green on more than one occasion. For example, a statement such as “If a player wishes to leave the rink of play, Law 33.1 will apply. However, if on more than one occasion, then on each occasion after the first they can only do so with their opponent’s and the umpire’s permission. If either the player’s team manager or coach are present, the umpire will consult with them before deciding whether or not to grant permission.”
- If appropriate, procedures for dealing with the situation in which, having received the opinion of a medically qualified person present at the game, the player, opponent, umpire and Controlling Body (when present) agree that it would be acceptable to allow a player slightly longer than 10 minutes to return to the green. (For example, in the situation in which on-site medics advise that a player suffering from dehydration should be allowed 15-minutes from the start of treatment to recover.)
- If appropriate, procedures for dealing with situations in which a player may be adjudged to be abusing law 33 (for example, in the LC’s experience, the most common form of abuse is taking frequent toilet breaks in an attempt to slow down a game). The procedures may include a statement such as “During any game, players must not act in a manner adjudged to being deliberate slow play in order to gain an unfair advantage. A player adjudged to be acting in an unfair manner will be in breach of law 36 (Deliberate non-sporting action)”.
- Procedures for the introduction of a substitute (as permitted in law 33.9). The procedures may include, for example,
- A statement as to whether or not the introduction of a substitute is permissible
- A statement that a substitute (if eligible and available) should get ready to play as soon as it becomes apparent that there was a risk that the game could be delayed for more than 10 minutes
- Any time-limit to be applied for a substitute to be ready to play following the decision that a player is no longer able to continue
- A statement as to whether or not the substituted player can return later in the same game
- A statement as to whether or not the substituted player can return in any subsequent games
- A statement as to whether or not the substitute is required to comply with the footwear and attire regulations in force for the game in which they are to act as a substitute
Members’ Enquiries and Laws Committee Decisions
Proposed Changes to the Laws – CM3 Edition
The proposal to amend the laws detailed below was unanimously approved by National Authority delegates at the Council Meeting in December 2016.
The bias side of a bowl is identified by the small grooved rings surrounding its centre and the non-bias side is identified by the large grooved rings surrounding its centre (law D2)
The Laws Committee is of the view that the current requirement for large grooved rings surrounding the centre of the non-bias side is not necessary. It proposes, therefore, to revise the laws to remove this requirement.
- There are only two sides to a bowl. Since the laws require that one side (the bias side) is identifiable by small grooved rings surrounding its centre there is no need to have a means of identifying the other side (the non-bias side).
- The removal of the requirement to have large grooved rings surrounding the centre of the non-bias side gives Licensed Manufacturers greater flexibility when deciding the size of any distinguishing marks which are to be placed on that side of a bowl.
Bias side of a bowl: the side of the bowl that is the more rounded of the two sides, which is identified by the small grooved rings surrounding its centre.
Each set of bowls can carry a player’s individual emblem, logo or engraving as a distinguishing mark on both sides of every bowl.
220.127.116.11 The distinguishing marks must be the same design and colour but can be different in size.
18.104.22.168 The distinguishing mark on the bias side of the bowl must be inside the smallest grooved ring surrounding its centre.
22.214.171.124 If there are grooved rings surrounding the centre of the non-bias side, the distinguishing mark must be inside the smallest ring.
126.96.36.199 If there are no grooved rings surrounding the centre of the non-bias side, the distinguishing mark must be inside the indentations designed to help the player grip the bowl during delivery.
188.8.131.52 As well as the distinguishing marks, each set of bowls can carry a player’s name or signature. Imprints on the running surfaces of bowls must be avoided.
All bowls belonging to players within a team or side must have these markings on them and the markings must all be the same design and colour. However, players may use markings which are different in size from those used by other players in their team or side where this is necessary due to differences in the sizes of either the manufacturers’ rings or distinguishing marks on the bowls.
Licensed Manufacturers and Licensed Testers are entitled to imprint the registered World Bowls Stamp on the bias side of bowls. Imprints on the running surfaces of bowls must be avoided wherever possible.
Law 23.3 states that “No measuring (that is, the use of equipment such as that described in law 54, placed between the jack and bowls to decide which bowls are shot) will be allowed before the process of deciding the number of shots scored starts (as described in law 23.1).
In the light of uncertainty being expressed about how this law should be implemented, the LC would like to clarify the intent of the law and to give examples of what is and what is not permissible.
Laws Committee Clarification:
The Oxford Dictionary of English defines ‘to measure’ as: ‘to ascertain the size, amount, or degree (of something) by using an instrument or device marked in standard units’.
As mentioned above, law 23.3 describes measuring as “the use of equipment such as that described in law 54, placed between the jack and bowls to decide which bowls are shot”.In a bowls context ‘measuring’ means deciding which bowl or bowls are nearer to the jack than any of the opponent’s bowls – there is no requirement to calculate the distances between the jack and the bowls using imperial or metric units. Therefore, since ‘measuring’ when used in a bowls context does not mean using an imperial or metric unit to calculate a distance, it is technically ‘estimating’.
The equipment described in law 54 is fixed in its length when used to compare the distance of one bowl from the jack with that of another. The phrase ‘such as’ in the law means that equipment other than that specifically listed in law 54 may be used (e.g. equipment approved by individual MNAs, such as trammels which are approved for use in some southern hemisphere countries).As ‘measuring’ in law 23.3 means deciding (not calculating) a distance and law 23.3 allows for equipment other than that specifically listed in law 54 to be used, the LC is of the view that the placing of any equipment or other fixed-length object between the jack and bowls to decide which bowls are shot would constitute ‘measuring’. The use of such equipment or objects during an end, therefore, would be in breach of law 23.3. Examples in addition to those described in law 54, include equipment used whilst playing the game (mats, scorecards, pens, cloths, bowls lifters and so on) and objects such as a player’s foot.
Examples of equipment or objects which, when used during an end, would not be deemed to be in breach of law 23.3 include cross-fingers and devices comprising concentric circles within a transparent frame which are held approximately waist high, and equipment or objects (such as a player’s foot) placed alongside or parallel to (but not directly between) the jack and the bowls.
Laws 29.1 and 29.4
April 2016 – Bowls USA:
The National Umpire-in-Chief for Bowls USA sought clarification of how the following situation should be addressed. Team A and Team B are playing a Triples match. (Team A started the end.) Vice B’s bowl is mistakenly raked up by the players on an adjoining rink. Not seeing his final bowl to play, Vice B believes he has thrown it and puts Skip B’s bowl on the mat. All players switch their positions on the rink at the crossover, and Skip B, seeing his bowl on the mat, delivers his bowl, which disturbs the head and leaves Team B three shots up. Skip A realizes that Skip B bowled out of turn and says the end is dead, citing Law 29.1.3. Vice B says that he should be allowed to play his forgotten bowl, citing Law 29.4.2, arguing that he never lost his turn to throw because two bowls were not thrown and that Skip B’s bowl should be returned, the head replaced, and that he, Vice B, should be allowed to roll his bowl and everyone gets back to their proper order. Umpires have differing opinions on how the Laws should be interpreted when addressing this situation. Firstly, in the situation as outlined, the Vices’ bowls were played in their proper order. The fact that Vice B forgot to play a bowl, and then compounded the error by placing Skip B’s bowl on the mat, and then Skip B, not realizing the error, played out of order — well, Skip A did notice before bowling and declared the end dead. And that is an option in Rule 29.1.3, which is the rule that applies and would be the correct interpretation of the Laws in this case. It is Skip B who played out of order, not Vice B. Secondly, Vice B’s situation occurred first and should be dealt with first when addressing the issue. We look forward to hearing the LC’s interpretation.
Laws Committee Decision:
(In preparing its response, the LC has replaced some of the local terminology used in the query with the corresponding terminology used in the Laws of the Sport: ‘Rule’ has been replaced with ‘Law’, ‘Vice B’ has been replaced with ‘Second B’ and ‘throw the bowl’ and ‘roll the bowl’ have been replaced with ‘deliver the bowl’. The LC has also assumed that the format of the Triples game requires each player to play three bowls.)
In summary, Leads A and B have delivered their three bowls singly and in turn. Seconds A and B have delivered their first two bowls singly and in turn. Second A has delivered their third bowl but Second B has not delivered their third bowl – instead Skip B has delivered their first bowl. The situation which has arisen, therefore, is one in which a player has played out of turn and it is noticed before any further bowls have been delivered. Law 29.1, therefore, is the law which should be applied (more specifically, law 29.1.3 because the bowl which was played out of turn disturbed the head).
One of the solutions suggested in the query is that Second B should be allowed to deliver their third bowl. This would be possible if it was Skip A who has played out of turn. Applying Law 29.1 in that instance would mean that Skip B (Skip A’s opponent) can choose which of the options described in law 29.1.3 they wish to invoke. One of the options available to Skip B would be to replace the head to its former position, return the bowl and go back to the proper order of play (law 184.108.40.206) – going back to the proper order of play would result in Second B playing their third bowl. (Note, however, that citing law 29.4.2 in this situation is incorrect.)
However, in the situation described in the query, it is Skip B who has played when it was Second B’s turn. The fact that Skip B is the player who has played out of turn (i.e. a player from the same team as Second B) does not detract from the fact that a player has played out of turn and it is noticed before any further bowls have been delivered. Law 29.1.3 is still the law to be applied. However, since Skip A is the opponent of the player who played out of turn, it is Skip A who can choose which of the options described in law 29.1.3 they wish to invoke. Choosing to declare the end dead is one of these options (law 220.127.116.11). Declaring the end dead – one of the solutions suggested in the query, therefore, is a valid solution to the situation described.
November 2015 – Bowls USA:
Bowls USA recently received a question as to whether a player is permitted to use headphones during competition. Does World Bowls have a position on this issue? I don’t think this is addressed explicitly in the Laws of the Sport of Bowls.
Laws Committee Decision:
Law 41 makes reference to hearing devices for people with hearing difficulties but the Laws are silent as to the use of headphones (the inquiry doesn’t say for what purpose they are being used).
However, they can be allowed / disallowed at the discretion of the Controlling Body and if they are being used to communicate between a player and a notified coach then law 44 applies.
The Conditions of Play should cover what is allowed /not allowed as it does now in many instances in the southern hemisphere relating to the use of mobile phones during games.
In other words the Laws are not specific on this but the COP’s should be.
Law 17.2 and 17.2.1
May 2015 – Bowls Japan:
Bowls Japan would like to clarify the intent of laws 17.2 and 17.2.1. How should we treat the bowl in the following cases?
Case 1: If a player who was going to carry their bowl while inspecting the head accidentally dropped the bowl on the way to the head.
Case 2: If a player placed their bowl on the green just one inch in front of the mat and visited the head.
Case 3: If a player carried their bowl while visiting the head and placed the bowl on the bank while inspecting the head.
Laws Committee Decision:
Two laws are relevant when considering this enquiry.
Firstly, law C.3 within the Play section of the Definitions which states:
Delivery: deliberately releasing a jack or bowl from the hand or an artificial device using an underarm movement. If the jack or bowl accidently slips from a player’s hand or artificial device during delivery, the player can pick it up and start the delivery again.
Secondly law 7.1 which states:
Position on the mat: Before delivery a player must be standing on the mat with all or part of at least one foot on the mat. At the moment they deliver the jack or a bowl, the player must have all or part of one foot on or above the mat.
In each of the three cases listed in the enquiry no delivery is deemed to have taken place. Therefore, the player may still deliver their bowl.
June 2012 – Bowls Australia
Bowls Australia have requested approval from World Bowls for the following to be accepted;
“For the Australian domestic perspective only, it is acceptable for Bowls Australia to interpret Law 18.104.22.168 which refers to substitute players as an overarching term including the use of substitute players prior to the commencement of competition and during that competition (which are at times referred to as “replacement” players)”.
Laws Committee Decision:
Bowls Australia have stated in their communication that this step will be taken as an interim measure and when the next review of the laws takes place Bowls Australia will be sure to adjust the law book to meet World Bowls requirements.
It is the Laws Committee view that, in the circumstances described, the proposed solution offered by Bowls Australia is an appropriate way forward.
We note that the solution does not seek to change the laws, it merely uses a different interpretation (based on historical precedent) of the terms “substitute and replacement” used in the laws. We believe that it is permissible to use one as an alternative to the other.
In the Domestic Regulations provided by Bowls Australia and previously approved by the committee the definitions of the terms in Section 4.1 of those Regulations make their meaning in that context quite clear.
The request therefore from Bowls Australia is approved.
Laws D.3 and D.3.3
May 2012 – Scottish Bowls Umpiring Committee
The Scottish Bowls Umpiring Committee sought clarification on the stamping of bowls as follows.
Definition D.3 describes what is a set of bowls and Definition D.3.3 indicates that they must be the same ‘ size, weight, colour, bias, serial number and engraving’
Whilst it is a simple task for an umpire to check size, colour and engraving there are a reasonably large number of players who are using bowls that do not have a serial number engraved on them. These bowls are probably of such vintage that they were sold before the advent of serial numbers and, despite being tested and stamped on several occasions, still have no serial numbers on them.
A recent instance has been reported that a player took such bowls to be tested and they were returned, stamped and certificated, despite having no serial numbers on them. The questions raised are:
- Despite being tested and stamped are these bowls legal to play with?
- Why do registered testers stamp and certificate bowls that do not bear a serial number?
- Whilst each manufacturer has their own form of serial number, could there not be a set of numbers issued to each manufacturer by World Bowls Ltd for use in such instances and applied to the bowls at the owner’s expense when such bowls are submitted for testing as in the case of those older bowls which are numbered one to four?
Laws Committee Decision:
The answers to the questions posed in the Scottish Bowls Umpiring Committee query are as follows.
- The bowls are not ‘legal to play with’. Bowls used during competitive play should comply with the requirements defined in the Laws of the Sport. The requirement for each player to play with the appropriate number of bowls from the same set is defined in law 52.1.9 and the requirement for each bowl in the set to have the same serial number is defined in Definition D.3.3.
- The WB Regulations for the Testing of Bowls state that a set of bowls submitted for testing can only be re-stamped and given a ‘pass’ certificate if it complies with the Laws of the Sport – this includes the requirement for serial numbers described above. If a tester finds that the serial number on a bowl has faded, they are required to refresh it. If they find that the serial number is either illegible or missing, they are required to put the same new serial number on each bowl.
Testers are aware of the Regulations. Any failure to meet the requirements for serial numbers, therefore, can be attributed to the occasional ‘oversight’ by the tester during the testing process. If an owner has recently had a set of bowls returned by a tester accompanied by a ‘pass’ certificate when the bowls do not have a legible serial number on them, they should return them to the tester to have the serial number added.
- There is no need for WB to issue to testers a set of numbers for use when bowls submitted for testing do not have a serial number. Testers already have their own form of numbers for use in these circumstances (for example, one tester uses a letter followed by the last four digits of the certificate number).
Laws 29.1 and 29.4
March 2012 – USA LBA
The Laws and Constitution Committee of the USA LBA sought clarification on ‘playing out of turn’ as described below.
In a Pairs match the skips and leads change ends and skip ‘A’ plays first. The bowl does not disturb the head and comes to rest very close to the jack and is now shot bowl. Then skip ‘B’ bowls, also causing no disturbance. Then skip ‘B’ realises he should have bowled first. You’re brought in as umpire. How would you resolve the situation?
In as much as both skips played out of turn (per 29.1.2) is it the ‘opposing skip’ that would choose between 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199?
One umpire might want to implement 188.8.131.52 leaving the head as it is and having skip ‘B’ play another bowl to get them back into the proper sequence.
Another umpire might find value in 184.108.40.206 and returning both skip ‘A’s and skip ‘B’s bowls, then having skip ‘B’ play first.
A third umpire might rule that law 29.4.2 is the applicable law inasmuch as it clearly decides the applicable situation that occurred. But the solution indicates that skip ‘B’ would lose the right to play his first bowl of the end, resulting in skip ‘A’ playing four bowls and skip ‘B’ playing only three. Some feel that this is unfair because skip ‘A’ was the first to play out of turn.
Laws Committee Decision:
The situation described in the US query is one in which players have played out of turn – the law which deals with playing out of turn is law 29.1. However, law 29.1 deals only with the situation in which one player has played out of turn and the mistake is noticed either before that player’s bowl has come to rest (law 29.1.1) or after the bowl has come to rest but before the next player to play has played their bowl (laws 29.1.2 and 29.1.3).
In the situation described, two players have played out of turn before the mistake is noticed. Law 29.1 does not deal with this situation. The US query, therefore, relates to a situation that is not covered by the laws. In line with the Introduction to the Foreword to the Laws, we need to use ‘common sense and a spirit of fair play to decide on the appropriate course of action’.
The appropriate course of action would be to have player ‘B’ play their second bowl, followed by player ‘A’ playing their second bowl, and so on. This course of action is consistent with the intent of the laws (law 220.127.116.11) and avoids either player being penalised by losing the right to play a bowl as a result of what one trusts has been a genuine mistake by both parties.
[As an aside, in situations where law 29.1.2 is appropriate, the courses of action suggested in the 4th and 5th paragraphs of the query (relating to laws 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124) are not in line with the laws. The umpire does not have the power to directly implement either of these laws. The umpire only has the power to directly implement law 29.1.2 – that is, give the opposing skip the two options leaving it up to the skip to decide which of these options they wish to choose.]
In the US query, it is suggested that law 29.4.2 is ‘the proper law’ to deal with the situation described. Law 29.4 deals with situations in which a player fails to play a bowl (in previous editions of the Laws of the Sport it was called ‘Omitting to Play’). Law 29.4.1 deals with the situation in which a player fails to play a bowl before the result of the end is decided. Law 29.4.2 deals with the situation in which both teams play a bowl before it is noticed that another player has failed to play a bowl – this law is intended to cover situations such as in a Fours game when the two Thirds play their first bowls before they notice that one of the Seconds has not played one of their bowls.
The operative phrase in this law is ‘failed to play’. The inclusion of the phrase ‘in the proper order’ in law 29.4.2 is a throw-back to earlier editions of the Laws of the Sport where its inclusion was no doubt intended to clarify the situation being dealt with. It would appear that its retention in the current law is now leading to the interpretation that the law deals with playing out of turn. This interpretation is not correct – the law deals with a situation in which a player has not played a bowl and not with a situation in which a player has played a bowl but played it in the wrong order. Applying this law in the case of the US query, therefore, would be incorrect. (in the light of this it may be appropriate for the LC to consider deleting the phrase in future editions.)
June 2011 – Bowls England
Bowls England requested clarification on the law for drawing the rinks of play. Their concern was “It seems as though many people are not offering the away team the available rinks to make a draw and the home team is choosing the rinks which suit their players.”
Laws Committee Decision:
The relevant law in this case is law 3.1 which is clear in its intent – “The Skips, their representatives or the Controlling Body should make the draw for the rinks on which games are to be played”.
The Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘draw’ is “an act of selecting names randomly to decide winners in a lottery, opponents in a sporting contest, etc.” In the context of law 3.1, it would read “an act of selecting rink numbers and opponents randomly to decide opponents in a sporting contest”.
It follows that, for any scheduled event, there should be sufficient rinks made available for a draw to take place. Therefore, for a single game scheduled at a club, more than one rink should be made available for the draw and for competitions involving more than one rink of play (e.g. inter-county or inter-district competitions comprising a Side of three or four disciplines) the minimum number of rinks required should be made available. Rinks cannot be allocated to individual games or disciplines in advance. The rink numbers available should preferably be consecutive (e.g.. rinks 1,2,3 and 4 or rinks 2,3,4 and 5) and not interspersed with other games being played at the club.
There are a number of ways in which the draw for rinks and opponents can take place (e.g. numbers for rinks to play on drawn from a hat by respective Skips or team representatives swapping scorecards containing the names of their skips and then shuffling and pairing the cards). The LC does not have a preferred option except to say that there should be a random draw done for rink numbers and opponents.
Finally, the LC recommends that the method to be used for drawing rink numbers and opponents should be included in the Conditions of Play for the event being played.
Laws 55.3.4 and 32.1
April 2011 – Bowls New Zealand
Law 32.1 requires that if a game is stopped because of darkness, weather conditions or any other valid reason then the game should be continued either on the same day or on a different day. Law 55.3.4 gives the Controlling Body for an event powers which include the ability to alter or amend the programme of the event as it considers necessary or appropriate if the weather or other conditions are unsuitable and the ability to suspend play temporarily in, or abandon, any game.
There are occasions, such as when competing teams have to travel long distances to take part in an event, in which it is impractical to continue a game at a later time or date when adverse weather conditions cause that game to be stopped. If a Controlling Body decides to exercise its powers under law 55.3.4 – for example, by declaring that the game is null and void or declaring that the result of the game will be determined by the scores as they stood after a pre-determined number of ends have been completed – does this override the requirement to continue the game later as required by law 32.1?
Laws Committee Decision:
If a Controlling Body decides to exercise its powers under law 55.3.4 to deal with a situation such as that described, it should include within its Conditions of Play any regulations which it deems appropriate to resolve the situation (these regulations can differ from those described in law 32). In such circumstances, the regulations in the Conditions of Play override the requirements of law 32.