March 7, 2006

A century of petanque. And now..?

As you may know, the only country in the world where the amount of licensed players is decreasing year after year, is its birthplace, France. There is constant friction between those who have played for years, for fun (and yes -- sometimes for a couple of Francs Euros) and those who want a formal sport structure. New requirements, like a medical certificate, have turned off a lot of the leisure players. They have left clubs, and stick to playing with friends, outside of any league or organisation. It is sad to see clubs, some with a beautiful boulodrome, simply folding for lack of members.

On the other hand French TV stations have discovered that viewer ratings are pretty appealing. That means sponsors, and money, but media also have their constraints when it comes to timing, presentation and discipline. Click on the pictures!

Meanwhile, a lot of the decisons that are made in France indirectly affect other countries as well, countries where petanque is growing faster year after year, and that do not have the historical 'luggage', neither the good nor the bad.
As in any fight, both sides are half right, ànd half wrong.

While researching the previous article, I came across the opening speech by Mr Marcellin Dayer , Président of La Genevoise, the Geneva Petanque Club. He puts it quite bluntly -- which maybe he can afford more than others, being a respected insider, ànd a (Swiss) outsider.
Food for thought.

It is a 'free' translation, respecting the meaning, not necessarily the literal words.
For the original text in French, go right here.

Petanque was created around 100 years ago, organized in an International Federation around 50 years ago, and finds itself today at a crossroad, torn between a high level sport on the one hand and a popular pastime on the other, organized in such a traditional fashion that it has become disconnected from today's realities.
The oldest federations are struggling to maintain their membership numbers, without really grasping the causes for the loss in numbers. Newer federations are looking for ways and means to promote the sport. Both are taking liberties with the rules which only adds to the confusion.
New tournaments are created all around while the survival of older ones is not supported. Yet both depend often on the commitment (sacrifice) of one or two people. When they give up, voluntary or otherwise, the tournament vanishes.

Be it on a national or on the international federation level, fundamental choices must be made, especially upon approaching this first century of petanque:

* clarifying the game rules and their application, specifically in terms of enforcement & discipline

* studying the appropriate ways to be in tune with today's realities and the requirements of the media

while preserving the authentic values and assets that are the very fabric of petanque: a culture and a way of life.

Reconcile the irreconcilable is the challenge for today's leaders. It is possible with competence and tolerance, and with the courage not to go for boiled down standards.

2007 has been designated by the International Federation to celebrate "100 years of petanque". It should also be a time for everyone concerned to reflect on the best way for petanque to remain enjoyed by all players, whether as a game, a sport or for fun, conscious that between those three, there should be no antagonism, but only bridges.

1 comment:

Jeppy said...

100 Years of Petanque!

We should have logos, promotional tournaments, Centenial Boule Markings, and of course - increased players!