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Letters & Opinion

by John Riches
Australian Correspondent


Laws recommendations - an explanation

 • Complete current official laws, from the Oxford Croquet Website.
 • Complete recommended revision, from the John Hanscomb Website
 • State of the Game # 5: The Laws revision: What difference will it make?
 • State of the Game #4: Thirty-three changes and clarifications
 • State of the Game #1: Identifying flaws in the Laws

Although John Riches and his Australian committee have prepared a complete revision of the Laws at the request of the Australian Croquet Association, it is not certain that the ACA will adopt them for play. It is more likely that the proposed revision will be used as a basis for revived negotiations with representatives of the other major croquet playing countries at Christchuch in January-February 2000, during the MacRobertson Shield matches.

In November 1997 during the World Championships in Bunbury, Western Australia, the International Laws Meeting convened to consider changes to the Laws of Association Croquet. Represented were all the main croquet playing countries. The main set of proposed changes came from the United Kingdom, with smaller documents presented by Australia and New Zealand.

Many of the proposals were accepted 'in principle', and a small committee was set up to negotiate the new wording that would be necessary to give effect to the desired changes. This proved a far more difficult and involved task than some had imagined, and after almost a year of constant e-mails, negotiations broke down when the New Zealand representative informed the committee that he could not afford the time for continuing involvement and the UK representative reported that he no longer had sufficient support from the English Croquet Association Laws Committee which he had been representing.

The Australian Croquet Association directed me, as its ILM representative, to go ahead and complete the laws revision with the assistance of Dr. John Hanscomb and Dr. Max Hooper - the two other members of the ACA Laws Committee I was chairing at the time. We completed the task and submitted the revised laws to the Australian Croquet Association Executive on 1st July 1999 as requested.

We tried to keep as closely as we could to the changes agreed to by the International Laws Meeting; however, we did include a small number of other minor revisions which we considered non-controversial and highly desirable for purposes of clarification and completeness.

The final draft - still subject to change - has been published on the Internet, as were earlier drafts. Thus we have been able to make use of valuable input from a number of people both in Australia and overseas. We do not see our version of the revised laws as the final solution to all of the problems we see in the current laws. There are many more changes we would have liked to make; but we believe that we have remedied most of the major anomalies, omissions, ambiguities and contradictions in the current laws, and have been able to do this without noticeably adding to their overall length.

We believe that these revised laws, if adopted - and there is no certainty that they will be adopted by the ACA or anyone else - will be a vast improvement on the current laws. The game as we know it will remain the same, with the main changes being fairer penalties for various types of error situations, most of which will occur only rarely.

I outline below the main laws to which substantial changes have been made, with a brief explanation for each. I am willing to reply privately to anyone who wants more information about the reasons for the changes and how they will apply to various situations, and takes the trouble to contact me via e-mail at:

Law 4: Worded more rigorously and introducing the terms 'live' and 'dead' balls which were necessary to re-word the changes to the error laws as desired.

Law 5: Combined with law 6 and a new law 5 inserted containing clearer definitions of various terms (and including live and dead balls) than are given in the current laws.

Law 8: Revised so as to allow the striker to change his mind about which ball he is electing as the striker's ball (or in a croquet stroke as the croqueted ball where there is a choice) up until the stroke has been actually played.

In the current laws there are too many situations where it is unclear whether or not the striker may change his mind. The revision will not allow him to gain any unfair advantage, as he will be able to do only what he could have done in the first place anyway.

Law 12: Greatly simplified, requiring that in all cases where there is interference by another ball or balls, the ball to be yardlined will be placed in the nearest available position to its correct position. If two positions are equally close to the correct position, then the striker may choose either one.

Law 13: Changed so that the striker becomes responsible for the position of balls replaced after any fault or error which he has committed.

Law 14: Reworded more precisely and so as to cover clearly some reasonably common cases which are arguable under the current laws; although it has still not been feasible to adequately cover every very unlikely possibility.

Law 15: Changed to allow a pegged out ball to cause other balls to score points. This seems eminently more sensible and less confusing than the current law, although there remains the once-in-a-millenium possibility of a game ending in a 26-all draw.

Law 17: Reworded so as to cover cases which have been the subject of much dispute under the current law.

Law 19: As mentioned above (under law 8) the striker will be able to change his mind about the croqueted ball until the stroke has been played when he is arranging balls for a croquet stroke at the start of his turn, or in any "cannon" situation.

Law 23: A sentence added allowing the referee at his discretion to repair a damaged court instead of moving the balls.

Laws 23 and 24: Changed to say that a moved ball which is not affected by the play will be replaced as soon as it is not likely to affect the immediate future play, regardless of whether or not the turn may have ended in the meantime.

NOTE: The most controversial changes are those to the error laws (laws 26 - 35 which follow) involving limits of claims, penalties, etc. In addition to providing for cases which are not presently covered (particularly involving "dead" balls), we ensured as far as possible that the striker can no longer gain an advantage from the fact that he has committed an error. Some laws in this section have been renumbered. [Much of this section uses wording proposed by Stephen Mulliner.]

Law 26:

(1) The notion of "condoning" has been done away with and has been replaced by "rectification" of errors discovered within the limit of claims.
(2) The adversary is no longer required to forestall before an error has been committed by the striker, although he may do so if he wishes.
(3) The referee is specifically given the power to penalise any deliberate breach of the laws.

Laws 27 and 28: "Restricted remedies" have been done away with, and law 28(a) has been deleted.

Law 29:

(1) Combined with law 30, it now provides separately for situations where a "dead" ball is involved.
(2) In situations where the striker has taken croquet from the wrong ball, or when not entitled to do so, or has failed to take croquet, the adversary will have the right to waive the replacement of the balls if he believes it would be to his advantage to require the striker to continue with the balls as they lie. [This idea was proposed by Ian Vincent.]
(3) The striker's turn will end if it would have done so had the error not been committed - e.g. if the striker had missed a roquet or failed in an attempt to run his hoop.

Law 32:

(1) The term "during the striking period" has been replaced by "during a stroke".
(2) More precise wording of some of the faults.
(3) A specific statement that a double hit caused by making a "hoop and roquet" is not a fault.
(4) After any fault which is discovered within the limit of claims the adversary will have the right to waive the replacement of the balls.

Law 33: Combined with other laws and replaced by additional laws covering faulty equipment and 'Playing when forestalled'.

Law 34: Combined with other laws and replaced by a new law covering the handling of "impasses". [Proposed and worded by Stephen Mulliner.]

Law 35:

(1) 'Playing when misled' and 'Wrongly removing or failing to remove a ball from the game' (currently law 30(d)) are no longer considered to be errors, but have been placed in a separate section of the laws headed "Interference". This means that they will not be considered under the Compound Error law if combined with an actual error.
(2) The limit of claims for 'Playing when misled' has been extended to the end of the game. [Again the changes and wording were proposed by Stephen.]

Law 37: Deleted.

Law 38: Changed so that in doubles play a bisque can no longer be taken as two half-bisques. (At present law 43(a) states that in doubles play "Law 38(b) does not apply", and therefore it is permissible in doubles play to take a bisque as two half-bisques.)

Law 48: A statement added to say that the striker who successfully claims a wiring lift is not required to take it. There has been some argument on this point under the current laws. [Change suggested by Ian Bond.]

Law 50: A provision that the game clock may be stopped at any time at the discretion of the referee (or the players as joint referees).

[John Riches may be e-mailed at:]

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