I am a non-licensed member of several clubs in Paris (AS-Jardin de Luxembourg, AB-Invalides) and Marseille (Boule Florian, Boule Carnussiennne). I began playing Pétanque in 1998, and have played 3-4 months per year in France ever since, mostly in Marseille. During the high season in Marseille, roughly mid-May through mid-September, I typically play 3-4 tournaments per week, using my FPUSA license (la Boule New Yorkaise). Any player with an American license is eligible to play in any tournament in France, with the exception of those departmental and regional competitions used to qualify French players for their own national championships.
In 2004, the French Federation adopted a rule of “homogénéité”: for all weekend tournaments staged prior to May 31, all team members must be licensed by the same club. Designed to facilitate the concentration of elite players in elite clubs, the rule affected me negatively. I either lost my partners, or we were forced to play in non-Federation sponsored tournaments, called “concours sauvages.” (Concours sauvages, usually sponsored by bars, are illegal under French Federation rules, but are common throughout France, especially in the Marseille-Aix-La Citotat triangle.) The rule was abolished in 2006 — may it rest in peace.
Nataf was very curious about the American system, which I tried to explain. His view was that the FPUSA “penalizes itself” with internal rules that make it impossible for American nationals to be licensed abroad, yet still compete in USA national championships and on the national team. He also thinks that we should encourage players from abroad to play in the U.S., in order to raise standards. Even if one accepts the first point, it bears repeating that Americans with FPUSA licenses are excluded from only a small number of important tournaments in France. On the other hand, not having a French license may make it more difficult for many Americans to find partners in the first place.