WB Laws Decisions

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.

Details of the current edition of the Laws of the Sport of Bowls can be found in the ‘Laws of the Sport’ section under the ‘Laws and Umpiring’ link on the World Bowls website. The LC has decided that the LC’s decisions on MNAs’ enquiries relating to the Laws which pre-date the current edition should continue to be shown in this section if the wording of the law in question has not changed in the current edition. The law numbers on the original enquiries, however, have been revised to reflect those in the current edition.

November 2019 – Law 17.2.5 – dead bowl or live bowl

A request was received from the CEO of World Bowls for an interpretation relating to law 17.2.5 and whether a non-toucher bowl, resting on live bowls or the jack in the ditch, is a live bowl. We were informed that this issue had been referred to the National Officiating Committee of a MNA, and that the NOC had ruled that the bowl was dead, but the issue was still being questioned at a Technical Official level.

Basis of Inquiry

 Law 17.2.5 states “A bowl is not dead if it comes to rest on top of the jack or any bowls that are at rest within the boundaries of the rink.”

The rink and its boundaries are defined within the Laws, starting with these two terms –

C.27-1 – Rink – the section of the green on which a game is played.

C.27.2 – Rink of play – the section of the green and the corresponding sections of the end ditches on which a game is played.

The inquiry contends that the ditch is within the boundaries of the rink, therefore any bowl which comes to rest on top of any live bowls or jack in the ditch is still live.

The National Officiating Committee decision is that a bowl sitting on live bowls or the jack in the ditch is dead unless it is a toucher.

Laws Committee Decision

The Laws Committee agrees with the National Officiating Committee decision that the bowl in question is dead.

Law 17.1 is explicit in in its intention and states, in 17.1.1, that a bowl is a dead bowl if “it is not a toucher and comes to rest in the ditch;”

Law 17.2.4 allows for a toucher to come to rest on top of the jack or another toucher at rest in the ditch.

It is the Committee’s view that law 17.2.5 explicitly relates to the rink (the section of the green on which a game is played) and does not include the ditch, which is a part of the rink of play. The prior law 17.2.4 applies to the ditch.

The Committee has also considered law 17.2.2, which also refers to a bowl coming to rest “within the boundaries of the rink” as not being a dead bowl. Further, law 16.1.3 allows for a non-toucher to come to rest in contact with live bowls and the jack in the ditch, as long a part of that non-toucher remains in contact with the rink.

This inquiry raises some issues regarding definitions that need to be looked at when the Laws of the Sport are next reviewed, but the Committee is unanimous in its decision that the only bowls that can be considered in play in the ditch must be touchers.

The Committee also considers that law 17.2.5 should be looked at again at the time of the next Law review. The likelihood of any bowl coming to rest on the top of the jack or any bowls at rest on the rink is remote, in the Committee’s view, which brings into question the relevance of the law.


October 2019 – Bowls USA

A letter was received seeking guidance on how to enforce the Laws of the Sport and/or address bowlers’ behaviours within the Bowls USA Domestic Regulations. The following response is provided regarding these situations.

  1. Keeping the Score Card in Singles

In Singles play during the recent National Championships, each player was requested to use a score card and submit both completed cards at the end of the match. During one Singles match, the two players agreed to keep and turn in only one score card. When requested to submit a second card, the other player refused, stating that there were no penalties for refusing to maintain and submit a completed score card.

Laws of the Sport

In Singles play, the marker is responsible for keeping the score card (law 42.3). The marker must record the score after each end, and upon completion of the game, the marker must make sure that the score card contains the names and signatures of each player and the time at which the game was completed. The marker must then turn in the score card as directed in the Conditions of Play.

Recommended Guidance

It is one of the marker’s duties to maintain the score card in Singles. Having a marker responsible for the score card would have alleviated any need for the players to keep or submit their own score cards, as the marker’s card is the official record of the results of a game.
MNA’s are expected to assign markers at all national Singles events where they are the Controlling Body. There is no latitude for a MNA to alter the duties of the marker regarding the keeping of the score card.
There are several useful resources for marker training information. Guidelines for Markers are provided on the World Bowls website, and several organizations have published marker training documents and manuals.

  1. Relocating the Position of the Mat During Trial Ends

During trial ends, a player who did not have possession of the rink picked up the mat and placed it at a different position where they wanted to deliver their next bowl from. When challenged, the player responded by asking if there was any penalty for taking this action.

Laws of the Sport

The laws permit two trial ends to be played before the start of play in any new game or resumed game. Each player or team has the opportunity to start one trial end by placing the mat, delivering and centring the jack, and delivering the first bowl. After the first bowl has been delivered, the distance between the mat line and the jack cannot be changed (law 5.1.7).
During trial ends or during a game, the distance of the mat from the jack cannot be changed after the first bowl has been delivered. Any attempt to do so should be regarded as an infraction of the laws.

Recommended Guidance

In any situation where a player disobeys the laws, and the specific law does not include a penalty, there is a penalty that can be applied. Any player, team or side that does not meet the requirements of one or more laws is considered to be in default (see Def. C.2). The penalty for the defaulting player, team or side is forfeiture of the game (see Def. C.10)

  1. Bowls USA Regulations

Bowls USA publishes a document titled Bowls USA Domestic Regulations for Crystal Mark Third Edition which includes Domestic Regulations, the Conditions of Play for the National Championships, and the Dress Code for other sponsored tournaments. The title for this document is misleading, because it infers that all of its contents are Domestic Regulations.

Laws of the Sport

Law 57 describes the various game regulations that can be made by any MNA. Domestic regulations (see law 57.1) can be made for specific aspects of the sport. These regulations are intended to govern play at all levels of the sport – from national competitions controlled by the MNA to any play directly controlled by a member club. When Domestic Regulations are submitted to World Bowls for approval, only the aspects covered in law 57.1 are considered for approval.
Conditions of play must be established by the governing body for each specific event. These details are provided in Appendix A.1 of the Laws of the Sport.

Recommended Guidance

There needs to be a clearer distinction between the Domestic Regulations and the Conditions of Play. Since domestic regulations are intended for a wide audience (just like the laws), they should be published separately.
Any document containing the conditions of play for any event(s) should be titled as such.

The Laws Committee also recommends that the Controlling Body should establish code of conduct and disciplinary procedures to assist with governing players’ behaviours. There are some good examples that have been developed by other MNA’s, such as documents published by Bowls England and Bowls Australia which can be viewed on their websites.


Electronic Devices

May 2019

In response to questions being asked about the acceptability of MNAs restricting the use of electronic devices such as mobile phones, iPads and so on during play, the LC would like to clarify its position on the matter.

Laws Committee Clarification:

The LC’s position is that the decision on whether to restrict the use of electronic devices is a matter for individual MNAs based on local circumstances and that any restrictions which they wish to impose on their use must be included in the Conditions of Play for each of their events.

The LC’s position in relation to the use of electronic devices by players with a hearing disability is already reflected in laws 41.7 and A.1.4.5. It is also reflected in the comment about the use of mobile phones in the southern hemisphere in their decision on law 41 published in November 2014.

Whilst the LC’s views have previously been made specifically on the use of electronic devices by players with hearing disabilities, these are also the LC’s views on the use of electronic devices in general. Accordingly, the LC will be proposing an amendment to law A.1.4.5 for discussion at the next WB Council Meeting in 2020 which will reflect its wider view. (it is anticipated that the proposal will read “Arrangements for the use of electronic devices.”)

In the meantime it is acceptable for MNAs to restrict the general use of electronic devices as described in the first paragraph of this clarification. MNAs should note, however, that any restrictions must take into account the requirements described in the current edition of the Laws of the Sport and previous LC’s decisions. For example, they must take into account the requirements for players with a hearing disability described in law 41.7 and the use of devices comprising concentric circles described in the LC’s clarification of law 23.3 published in July 2016.

September 2018 – Bowls Scotland

On a recent occasion the bowl came to rest in the ditch. The umpire was called, one side said it was a toucher the other said it was not, the umpire did not see the bowl being played. When the umpire checked the bowl, he found that it was not chalked and removed it from the ditch. The side who played the bowl and thought it was a toucher said they did not get the opportunity to chalk the bowl because of the dispute.

What action should be taken if there is a dispute on whether a bowl touched the jack or not?

 Laws of the Sport 

The skips must decide whether a bowl is dead or not (first sentence of law 17.3 refers). If they cannot reach agreement they must ask the umpire to make a decision (last sentence of law 17.3 refers). Any decision made by the umpire must be in line with the Laws of the Sport (law 43.2.5 refers).

However, if a situation arises which is not covered by the Laws of the Sport, players and umpires must use their common sense and a spirit of fair play to decide the appropriate course of action (the Introduction section of the Foreword to the Laws of the Sport refers).

Umpire’s Approach

The Laws Committee’s approach to dealing with the dispute referred to in the BS query is as follows.

The umpire should

  1. Ask both teams individually to describe the path of the bowl in question from its delivery to coming to rest in the ditch (starting with the team which was in possession of the rink when the bowl was delivered).
  2. Identify those aspects of the descriptions on which the skips agree and confirm these with them.
  3. Identify those aspects of the descriptions on which the skips disagree and confirm these with them