This volume of Ask an Umpire covers players walking to the head on an adjacent rink and where to stand when at the head

Q: We have a couple of bowlers (skips) who deliver their bowl, watch from the mat as it goes down the green, and walk down to the head on an adjacent vacant rink. When I started out as a player in competition I was instructed that this was not acceptable. Is it not true that any player must follow the bowl down if they want to visit the head before the next shot?

A: When a team has possession of the rink, there is nothing to prevent a player from visiting the head before they deliver their bowl, unless there are restrictions on the movement of players in the conditions of play that state otherwise. You suggest that a bowler must follow their bowl if they wish to view the head before playing their next shot – this is not a correct interpretation of the laws.

Once a player has delivered their bowl, they may either remain at the mat end, or follow their bowl down the rink. Once their bowl has come to rest, they no longer have possession of the rink (other than allowing time to mark a toucher as soon as it has come to rest). Any player who follows their bowl down the rink must be behind the jack and away from the head once possession of the rink has transferred to the opposing team.

Any bowler who follows their bowl while walking down an adjacent rink (or adjacent to the ditch on an outside rink), may annoy or distract their opponent when they have possession of the rink. This is a possession of the rink violation, which can be addressed by the umpire, as stated in law 13.3.

Q: How far back from the head may the player who is directing the head stand and can the opposition player stand in front of the player directing the head? I was playing against an experienced player who indicated they needed to be only six feet behind the jack and did not move for the player directing the head. This forced the player directing the head to move directly in front of that opposition player to prevent the distraction of the player on the mat. What is the correct answer to this issue?

A: There is no distance specified in the Laws of the Sport to indicate where an opponent should stand when not in possession of the rink. I don’t know the origin of the “six feet back” distance. The opposing player must stand behind the jack and away from the head, which is defined as the jack and any bowls that have come to rest within the boundaries of the rink. Strictly speaking, this means that the opponent should be standing as far back as the furthest bowl from the mat.

The two opposing players who are directing the head generally reach a mutual understanding of where they should stand when their team is not in possession of the rink. If common courtesy does not prevail, then responding as you did, by standing directly in front of the opposing player, may deliver the message that the opponent is annoying or distracting the team that has possession, and should stand further back. This is not always practical, but it does establish the parameters under which a mutual understanding can be achieved. Respect for others is the first step towards showing respect for the game.

If there is an umpire on duty, this situation can be dealt with under law 13 of the Laws of the Sport. The umpire can warn the offending player regarding possession of the rink, and if the situation recurs, a penalty can be imposed.

From past editions of Extra Ends, as well as questions bowlers had for umpires that have never been published. All questions were answered by the National Officiating Committee

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