The WB Laws Advisory Group (LAG) 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 LAG 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 of the World Bowls website. The LAG has decided that their 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.
May 25 2023 – Laws 37.1.3 and 220.127.116.11
World Bowls Laws Advisory Group decision on Laws 37.1.3 and 18.104.22.168
In August 2022 the above two new laws were introduced to the Laws of the Sport Crystal Mark Fourth Edition. They were designed to penalise a player who deliberately displaced their own teams bowl on its original course or lifted a bowl at rest to allow one of their own team’s bowls to pass.
Despite a clarification document published on the World Bowls Website in September 2022, it has become very clear from communications that the two laws have caused a great deal of confusion and have resulted in games being forfeited incorrectly following players innocently stopping bowls from entering the ditch.
Furthermore, the management of a side game and the resulting penalty after a team has been disqualified has also caused a great deal of confusion with MNAs and domestic Controlling Bodies.
Concern has been around the severe penalty of forfeiting the game and clarity in the wording of the law itself. Recommendations have been received to reduce the severity of the forfeit to penalising with shot deductions. This approach would be inconsistent with any other law and was not felt to be a suitable solution. Penalties have always existed for the displacement of a bowl by its own team players but at the time of the 2021 Laws review these penalties were not felt to be severe enough for what is considered an act of “cheating”.
Having considered several options to improve the intent of these two laws, the World Bowls Laws Advisory Group have concluded and recommended to the Board of World Bowls to rescind them. The numbering of Law 37.1.4 will remain untouched until the next review of the Laws.
The World Bowls Board, following recommendation from the World Bowls Laws Advisory Group, have agreed to rescind Laws 37.1.3 and 22.214.171.124 with immediate effect.
37.1.3 If a bowl in its original course is deliberately displaced or stopped by a member of the team that delivered the bowl, the defaulting team will forfeit the game to their opponent.
37.1.4 Displacement of a bowl in motion.
126.96.36.199 If a bowl in motion is displaced by a player and it has not disturbed the head after it is displaced, the opposing skip or the opponent in Singles must choose whether to:
188.8.131.52.1 place the bowl where the player believes it would have come to rest; or
184.108.40.206.2 declare the end dead.
220.127.116.11 If a bowl in motion is displaced by a player and it has disturbed the head after it is displaced, the opposing skip or the opponent in Singles must choose whether to:
18.104.22.168.1 place the bowl where the player believes it would have come to rest and replace any part of the head disturbed after the displacement; or
22.214.171.124.2 declare the end dead.
37.1.5 Displacement of a bowl at rest.
126.96.36.199 If a bowl at rest or a toucher in the ditch is displaced by a player and it has not disturbed the head after it is displaced, the opponent must put the bowl back to its former position.
188.8.131.52 If a bowl at rest or a toucher in the ditch is displaced by a player and it has disturbed the head after it is displaced, the opponent must put the bowl back to its former position and replace any part of the head disturbed after the displacement.
184.108.40.206 If a player lifts a bowl at rest on their rink to allow their team’s bowl in its original course to pass, the defaulting team will forfeit the game to their opponent.
August 2022 – Painting of dimples on bowls
An enquiry was received from Bowls USA National Umpire in Chief for an interpretation on whether the painting of the grooved rings or dimples (grip) had to be identical on each bowl.
A set of bowls in the USA was found to have one dimple painted on one bowl, two dimples painted on another bowl, 3 dimples painted on another bowl and four dimples painted on the fourth bowl so basically the bowls were numbered albeit by colouring the dimples.
Basis of Inquiry
Definition D.3 states
D.3 Set of Bowls: four bowls, all of which are:
D.3.1 of a matched set;
D.3.2 of the same make and model; and
D.3.3 of the same size, weight, colour, bias, serial number and engraving.
Law 52.3 states
52.3 Alteration to bias
52.3.1 A player must not alter, or cause to be altered other than by a Licensed Tester, any bowl imprinted with the registered World Bowls Stamp in any way that would alter the bias of the bowl.
52.3.2 Any player breaking this law will be suspended from playing for as long as the Member National Authority of which the player’s club is a member decides.
52.3.3 The Member National Authority which suspended the player must give WB details of the suspension, and the suspension will apply among all Member National Authorities.
52.3.4 Players or owners who colour the grooved rings or dimples on a bowl for decoration are not breaking this law.
Laws Committee Decision
The Laws Committee agrees that the painting of the grooved rings or dimples either individually or in a pattern is permissible. Under Law 52.3.4 players who do colour the grooved rings or dimples on a bowl are not breaking law 52.3 regarding altering the bias of a bowl.
However, any colouring of the bowls must be compliant with Definition D.3 in that the bowls must be of a matched set with the same colour. The word ‘colour’ refers to not only the colour of the bowls but the colour of the engraving and any colour added by a player to the grooved rings or dimples on the bowls.
The bowls do not comply with the laws. 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 is defined in Definition D.3.3.
October 2020 – Laws Committee Guidance on the Use of Laser Measures
New measuring devices appear on the marketplace on a regular basis. Several models of laser measures have recently been introduced for use in lawn bowls. These devices have been designed by incorporating third-party laser measuring devices into a patented assembly, with components, which adapts them for use on a bowling green to measure for shot bowls.
World Bowls is working continuously to assist and encourage the development of the sport, and this includes the adoption of technological innovations that will assist players and officials. The World Bowls Laws Committee does not need to give permission for new measuring devices (each MNA has this authority), but the LC will comment if they do not comply with the Laws of the Sport.
The LC recently evaluated some of the new laser measures and has determined that it is appropriate to issue some guidance to MNAs and bowlers on their use. This guidance is intended to inform bowlers and bowls administrators of some considerations that should be given when assessing laser measures for domestic use, and to describe some limitations on their use, without commenting on any specific model.
The LC initially evaluated the prototype for a new laser measure in 2015. At the completion of this review process, the LC approved the measure for domestic use. This assisted the manufacturer with refining the design and commencing production of the measure, and it enabled MNAs to consider adoption of the laser measure for domestic use. Approval of this device was based on three principles:
1. The bowls laser measure worked on the concept of measuring the horizontal distance between two vertical planes, achieved by the design of the mount of the laser and incorporation of a vertical reflective target plate placed against the object being measured. The LC accepted this procedure as a proxy for measuring the sloping line between the nearest points of the jack and a bowl, as the intent of measuring is to determine the relative difference in distances between two or more bowls and the jack, rather than the absolute measurements.
2. The measuring process was consistent and easily replicable.
3. The third-party laser measure was manufactured by a reputable company in the field of optics and was deemed to provide a suitable level of measuring accuracy.
The World Bowls Umpire Development document was not updated to include the laser measure at that time.
The laser measure may be used as an alternative to the box measure, subject to any restrictions adopted by any MNA, and it is now listed in the “alternative equipment” section in the Umpire Development documentation on the Word Bowls website. Due to a variation in tolerances among laser measure models and as they do not measure directly between the nearest points of the jack and a bowl, there is a recommended minimum distance for their use. The recommended minimum distance for using a laser measure in an ideal situation is 300 mm.
[Note: The LC has amended the recommended minimum distance for using a box measure to be 200 mm, as callipers (or feeler gauges) are ideal for measurements less than 200 mm.]
The maximum distance for using a laser measure can vary, depending on the ambient lighting conditions, the measuring range of the laser beam, and the reflectivity of the target. The LC does not have any recommendations regarding maximum distance.
There are now several models of available laser measures for bowlers. Each model has a unique design and instructions on their use. The Umpire Development document has been updated to include generic instructions on how to use a laser measure; however, bowlers should use each laser measure in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to obtain optimal results. This also includes all health and safety guidelines pertaining to the use of lasers.
All other types of approved bowls measures are used to determine the relative differences in the distance between the jack and various bowls. The laser measure is unique, in that it provides a digital reading of the actual distance between two objects, and the user must perform a mathematical calculation to determine the difference between any two readings. For this reason, it is not necessary to return to the original bowl to recheck the distance. As a result, the user may be expecting to achieve a greater degree of accuracy when using a laser measure; however, there are some limitations which must also be taken into account.
Laser measures should be used with a degree of caution. All laser models display metric units to three decimal places (i.e. 1 mm), but their technical specifications indicate various levels of typical measuring accuracy, ranging between +/-1 mm and +/-3 mm. The LC recommends that MNAs adopt some protocols in response to measurements that fall within these ranges, such as:
a) to recheck the measures to the closest bowls to confirm the result;
b) to alter the method of measuring or choose an alternate measuring device.
Another limitation of any laser measure is that it can only be used when the jack and all bowls are on the green, and nothing is in the ditch. The laws state that any measurement involving the jack or a bowl in the ditch must be carried out using a flexible or string measure whenever possible.
August 2020 – Bowls England
The Laws Committee has received a request to provide clarity relating to the laws regarding leaving the green during the course of play, and any implications in relation to the Disability Discrimination and The Equality Act 2010.
Firstly, it is not the intent of any Law of the Sport of Bowls to discriminate against any individual, and this is indeed the case with Law 33.7. Instead, we would allow some flexibility in the time allowed for legitimate medical needs or refer to a different Law to manage your described scenario.
Law 33.7 states – If a player has to leave the green during the course of a Singles game due to illness or some other reasonable cause, and they cannot return within 10 minutes, the defaulting player will forfeit the game to their opponent.
The Laws Committee responded to a similar query in 2018.
An alternative solution can be found in Law 33.2:
Law 33.2 states If a player has to leave the green during the course of a team or side game due to illness or some other reasonable cause, and they cannot return within 10 minutes, the umpire or the Controlling Body can approve the introduction of a substitute.
We understand that a Substitute may not always be available and so this may not be applicable in those circumstances.
It is understood that not all medical issues can be managed in a short period of time as described above. In these instances, we could then refer to Law 32:
Law 32.1 states If a game is stopped because of darkness, weather conditions or any other valid reason by:
32.1.1 the Controlling Body;
32.1.2 the umpire after an appeal has been made by the players; or
32.1.3 agreement between the players when an umpire or a representative of the Controlling Body is not present;
the game must be continued either on the same day or on a different day. The scores will be as they were when the game was stopped.
The areas in bold would be applicable in such situations that you describe where 10 minutes is not sufficient time to deal with a medical emergency.
We hope this will reassure you that any player that requires medical intervention to allow them to continue to play, may do so without fear of forfeiture.
March 2020 – Bowls South Africa
The Laws Committee has received a request to provide clarity on where a player must be positioned before delivery of a bowl or the jack.
During play at the recent South Africa Masters, a player stood two metres behind the mat and took two steps forward onto the mat and delivered a bowl, all in one continuous action. The umpire warned the player that they were foot-faulting, as they were not standing on the mat before commencing delivery of their bowl.
This matter was brought forward to the LC by the Bowls South Africa National Standing Committee Technical Officials (NSCTO), seeking confirmation that the official’s interpretation of the laws was correct.
Laws of the Sport
Law 7.1 states that “Before delivery a player must be standing on the mat with all or part of at least one foot on the mat.” Law 7.3 states that “Any player not meeting the terms of this law is committing a foot-fault, and law 8 will apply.”
Law 8 describes the procedures to be taken by an umpire who decides that a player has not met the terms of law 7. “The umpire must, on the first occasion, warn the player in the presence of the skip and advise the coach when they are present that a warning has been given.” On all subsequent occasions, the player’s delivered bowl is stopped and declared dead.
Laws Committee Clarification
The LC agrees that the player in question was foot-faulting, and that the actions taken by the umpire were appropriate and correct.
The LC agrees that the player in question commenced their delivery from a position behind the mat where neither foot was in contact with the mat. The LC also concurs with the opinion of the NSCTO that the intent of Law 7.1 is to prevent any player from running or stepping forward onto the mat in a continuous motion in order to accelerate their delivery.
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.
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.
2) 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.
mended GuidanceIn 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)
3) 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.
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.
May 2019 Electronic Devices Laws Committee Clarification
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).
The Laws Committee’s approach to dealing with the dispute referred to in the BS query is as follows.
The umpire should:
- 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).
- Identify those aspects of the descriptions on which the skips agree and confirm these with them.
- Identify those aspects of the descriptions on which the skips disagree and confirm these with them,
- Gather evidence to support both skips’ descriptions of the aspects on which there is disagreement – such as evidence of movement of the jack, how close both teams were to the jack when the bowl was in its course and so on. (Note that the views of spectators should not be taken into account – spectators are unlikely to offer an unbiased opinion and, in any case, law 45.3 prevents them from advising the players.)
- Check whether, in the light of the information gathered in points 1- 4, the skips are now able to reach agreement.
- Explain what their decision will be – based on the evidence available and the Laws of the Sport.
If the outcome of the umpire’s approach is that there is now agreement between the skips, the umpire should declare the bowl to be either dead or live in line with that agreement.
If the outcome of the umpire’s approach is that there is still no agreement between the skips, the umpire should decide as follows:
- If the bowl has neither been marked nor nominated as a toucher and further bowls have been played after it came to rest, the umpire should declare the bowl dead (law 15.3 refers).
- If the bowl has neither been marked nor nominated as a toucher and it was the last bowl of the end, the umpire should declare the bowl dead (law 15.3 refers).
- If, in the umpire’s opinion, there is sufficient evidence to support either skip’s description, the umpire should declare the bowl to be either dead or live in line with that evidence.
- If there is insufficient evidence to support either skip’s description, the umpire should declare the end dead.
The team that delivers a bowl is responsible for marking or nominating that bowl as a toucher in line with law 15. The opposing team should not deny them the opportunity to mark or nominate it. (They can, however, dispute whether or not it was a toucher immediately after it has been marked or nominated.)
Decision 2 d): Declaring the end dead when all other options have been exhausted is considered to be the common sense approach to arriving at a final solution to this particular situation. In arriving at this decision, the Laws Committee recognises that one or other of the teams may feel aggrieved as a result. One party feeling aggrieved, however, is an inevitable consequence of having to decide the outcome of any ‘I said’ / ‘You said’ situation.
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
July 2016 – Law 23.3 Laws Committee Clarification
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.
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 220.127.116.11) – 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 18.104.22.168). 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.
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 22.214.171.124 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.
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).
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 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52?
One umpire might want to implement 184.108.40.206 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 220.127.116.11 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 18.104.22.168) 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 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199) 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.
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.