A Little History About Soccer Goals

During the 1970’s and 80’s the sport of soccer exploded in the US prompted by Title IX legislation and a general increased interest in the sport of soccer. High schools and colleges added soccer to their sports programs and youth soccer exploded on the scene. All this soccer activity required soccer equipment including very large, 24′ x 8′ structures that could weigh as much as 400 lbs each that were impossible to move and inherently unsafe. As we all know, unlike the rest of the world who uses permanently installed soccer posts, the US market requires that goals be portable and in theory, movable. It is now estimated that there are more than 500,000 pairs of portable soccer goals on playing fields throughout the United States

In the summer of 1992 the Consumer Product Safety Commission invited soccer goal manufacturers to Washington, DC to discuss the safety of portable soccer goals and the subsequent injuries and deaths that were occurring throughout the United States. The CPSC reported that since 1979 22 children had been killed by soccer goals accidentally tipping over. At  that time, the manufacturers made the case that the accidents must have been caused by homemade soccer goals that were made locally or even by the school’s mechanical shop department. There is no evidence available to confirm this hypothesis but it was believed that warning labels on all portable soccer goals would mitigate the liability risk of the manufacturers. In any case the CPSC recommended that warning labels be sent to all schools that had soccer goals while they studied the issue further.

In 1995 the CPSC issued preliminary “guidelines” suggesting that in addition to warning labels movable soccer goals should be anchored or counter weighted; kids should be warned to never climb on the goal net or goal framework; players should be instructed on the safe handling of and potential dangers associated with movable goals; movable goals should be used only on flat fields; nets should be removed when goals are not in use; goals should be chained to nearby fence posts, dugouts or similar fixtures when not in use; goals should be fully disassemble for seasonal storage. There is no evidence that the CPSC had ever tried to move a 300 lb portable soccer goal to determine these guidelines.

On October 1, 1997, the Manchester Union Leader newspaper, in response to a recent New Hampshire soccer goal death, reported that “Makers of soccer equipment are nearing agreement on standards to prevent goal frames from tipping over and crushing children who climb on them.”

On March 2, 1999 the “Provisional Safety Standard and Performance Specifications for Soccer Goals (ASTM-PS-75-79) was approved and requires that movable soccer goals not tip over when a downward force of 396 lbs
is applied to the center of the crossbar for 1 minute and a horizontal pull force of 242 lbs is applied at the top of the front and center of the crossbar for 1 minute. In theory, this is a positive step forward but of course it is just a theory. There are no means available for the end user to measure these pull forces and actually determine whether their portable soccer goals can meet these safety requirements. In fact, it is very unlikely that goals secured with 8″ ground stakes or 10 lb sand bags could meet the ASTM F2056 standards for soccer goal safety.

In May of 1999, in release #99-106 it was stated that the CPSC and the soccer goal industry helped develop a new safety standard that will reduce the risk of soccer goal tip-over. Chairman Ann Brown said, “we want kids to have fun, be active, and play soccer with goals that are safely anchored into the ground. The new standard makes soccer goals stable and, therefore less likely to tip over on children.” These recommendations must have been discussed in a conference room with no windows. In the real world, the committee could have looked outside and seen kids pulling out the half installed or loose stakes to move the goals. Or they might have seen them rolling the sand bags out of the way. (One leading manufacturer holds a patent on a sandbag device with a handle attached which makes it easier to remove).

In reality, because of differing soil conditions and unsupervised use – stakes, j-hooks, pegs, and sand bags are ineffective, or generally ignored by the end user and/or easily removed by kids who want to move the goals

Semi-permanent anchors that are buried in the ground would meet the ASTM F2056 requirements but are seldom used because the goals need to be moved, sometimes daily and the attachments are dangerous when exposed in the playing field. As a tragic consequence, 8 deaths have occurred during the period of 1992-1999 when the issue was being studied and 12 additional deaths were reported from 1999-2012 after the ASTM F2056 safety specifications were put in place.

No arbitrary safety requirements or legislation will eliminate future deaths. The only realistic solutions are that portable soccer goals be permanently anchored to the ground or that properly designed safety ballast, that also allows easy movement of the goal be an integral part of each goal that cannot be removed.

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