The Lawman: Changes to Laws, CoPs, Rumours and Facts

by John Roberts

The pennant season is now well on the way across Victoria. There have been some significant changes to Pennant Conditions of Play and a new version of the Laws of the Sport, Version 3.1, has been released. I hope you have updated your personal copy of the Law Book, and a copy is in your club’s umpire kit(s).

The Law Book has two main sections:

He first section contains the Laws of the Sport (all 60 laws) and Appendices, controlled and set by World Bowls (WB). The second section sets out the Bowls Australia (BA) Domestic Regulations, updated in April 2019 and the BA Policies.

  • Law 60 makes it clear that no controlling body or individual has the power or right to contract out any of the laws of the sport;
  • Law 57 sets out which regulations of play that Member National Authorities are permitted to modify for domestic regulations. These include: practice; groundsheets; improper delivery of the jack; substitute players; artificial devices; synthetic surfaces; footwear; and transferring the skip’s duty relating to score cards.

In Australian domestic play:

  • in fours, the SECONDS carry the card. See Domestic Regulation (DR 3.2.4);
  • the minimum length for domestic competitions is 21 meters (DR 1.3);
  • the scoreboard can be updated at anytime by ANY person (DR 3.1.1);
  • in fours when a player is missing, the team with an absent player plays as though the second is missing (DR Scoring remains the same.


The Rumour File – Bowls Style

A few interesting rumours (as they do every Season) have been circulating and we have  had a significant number of calls around the following.

Have the Laws changed? It puzzles me how these issues arise when there have been no changes in the Laws of the Sport. Just a few additions re sizes of bowls (Law 52), and a re-wording of DR2 to clarify the rules around substitutes, replacements, and absentee players.

The use of chalk in marking touchers? Law 15.1 clearly states a toucher MUST be marked with chalk. This means chalk, spray chalk or chalk-based marker pens. In pennant there is NO requirement to use spray chalk (but it is the preferred method). The use of a non chalk-based marker pen to mark touches is not allowed. In World Bowls, Bowls Australia or Bowls Victoria events the Conditions of Play of can state that only spray chalk can be used. This must be adhered to.

Carrying your bowl to the head. There is no Law or DR that says that when inspecting the head you cannot carry your bowl or if you drop it you lose your right to bowl. A bowls myth (Law 17.2.1).


Let’s examine Law 37.6.

If a bowl on its correct bias enters your rink from a neighbouring rink and it looks like it will disturb you head what should you do?

You have two choices:

1. Law allows you to lift the bowl at rest and then replace it.  This action is not allowed if it would not influence the outcome of the head.  

This means ONE bowl only. I have observed almost comical attempts to lift, 2, 3 or more bowls – funny and possibly dangerous.

2. Law enables you to stop it the bowl.

The preferred method in Victoria, which we advocate through our accreditation and umpire education program, is to STOP the bowl and return it to the player on the mat.

Note: if the bowl entering your rink is on the wrong bias it must be stopped and removed from the game as it is a dead bowl (Law 17.1.5).

A marker in any singles game MUST stop the bowl encroaching (Law 42.2.10).

STOP or LIFT? Points to remember:

  • Any player at the head can lift or stop the bowl;
  • Any player at the head can only lift ONE bowl;
  • Under no circumstances can the jack be lifted. You must top the bowl;
  • You can only lift the bowl if in doing so it will not affect the result of the game
  • A marker in singles must stop the bowl;
  • If in doubt stop the bowl and return it to the player on the mat. This is the preferred method in Victoria.

Enjoy our great game.

Have Fun!



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 Chair of the association’s Officiating and Laws Committee