The Lawman: Issues in officiating

by John Roberts

In my voluntary position at Bowls Victoria, I regularly receive emails (and some phone calls) regarding a range of issues involving officiating. Some are amusing, some perplexing but most are interesting and thought-provoking. I will share some of these with you, I have changed all names and locations to protect the innocent.


It is the last end of a pennant match, and all but one rink have completed their match. There is one rink remaining at play. Team A are down overall by 1, and the skip from Team A is discussing at length with his third as to what shot to play in an attempt to win the match. After considerable time the Skip and Third from Team A calls a skip from another then walks onto the green to discuss the shot selection. What can the umpire of the day do?

The umpire could choose to do nothing; however, Law 43.2.5 states the umpire must make sure that all aspects of play are in line with the Laws of the Sport of Bowls. So what Laws apply to the situation?
The first would be that of the “coach”. Law 44 is clear about the role and description of Coach. The umpire must be given the name/s of the coach before the game starts. Only one person can give advice at any one time, and the person coaching can only do so when their team is in possession of the rink and then only from outside the boundaries of the green.

Clearly, Team A has possession of the rink – Law 13.1. Law 12.2 states that in relation to a neighbouring rink a player must not go into a neighbouring rink where play is in progress. This game was clearly in progress.

In conclusion, the umpire could have asked the Skip who entered the rink to leave the green as he wasn’t the nominated coach. If the player was a nominated coach then the discussion needed to take place off the field of play. The umpire could have imposed Law 12.2.1


A player from Team A, was in the habit of leaving their Bowling Arm standing up in the ditch. In the process of a drive, a player from team B hits the jack which rebounds off the artificial device and goes out of bounds. The umpire is called to sort out the issue.

Law C23.2 defines what is a neutral object. That is, a jack, bowl or other object not belonging to any player on the rink of play. Clearly, the bowling arm belonged to a player on the rink and is not a neutral object.
Law 34 states that under no circumstances other than those described in laws 14,18,41, 49 and 56.5 must any object be placed on the bank, the green, in the ditch.

In conclusion as the jack has struck a bowling arm belong to a member of Team A it is considered to have been displaced by a player in Team A. When a jack in motion is displaced by a player, the opposing skip must choose to placing the jack where they believe it would have come to rest and replace any part of the head disturbed by the displaced jack or declaring the end dead. Law 38.1.2.

This scenario is a reminder that players should leave nothing on the green or especially objects like lifters and bowling arms. If nothing else they are safety hazards.


John Roberts is one of Australia’s most experienced lawn bowls officials. John works in a volunteer capacity for Bowls Victoria as a Laws and Rules Official and Chairman of the associations Umpiring Committee.