Unanchored soccer goals have become a real safety hazard. Children--even adults--pull themselves up on the front crossbar, attempting to climb the goal, do chin-ups, etc., but the weight is offset by the person, and the goal tips over, often striking the individual, sometimes causing serious injuries, even death. And every one of these accidents was preventable.
The Warning Signs
Since April 10, 1992, there have been numerous notices from the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to anchor soccer goals. In January 1995, CPSC also published a set of rules called “Guidelines for Movable Soccer Goal Safety.” They are available at www.cpsc.gov.
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is a group that creates a national safety standard for all manufacturers and owner/operators in specific industries. ASTM has published a set of national safety standards regarding soccer goal safety. The first one, a “Guide for Safer Use of Movable Soccer Goals” (Standard #F1938-98), was published in 1998 and is still in effect today. It covers anchoring methods, moving techniques and rules, etc. The second is “Standard Safety and Performance Specification for Soccer Goals” (Standard #F2056-00), which identifies a tipover test, goal construction, warning labels, stability, net attachment/anchors, assembly and safety instructions, moving a goal and removing netting, etc. For more information, visit www.astm.org.
Although the guidelines represent the minimum standard of care in the industry, ASTM is not “voluntary.” Compliance is a matter of survival for manufacturers in a competitive marketplace, and a matter of liability for owner/operators. When a company chooses not to follow the minimum standards of care, it does so at its own risk. Some laws have stated, “Standards or Guidelines have the force of law where no specific statute is in place because they have the same intent, that is, to protect the public” (Appellate court, Ill.). Rulings have held that CPSC does enforce the guidelines through product recalls, banning products and contacting manufacturers to change defects.
It is important for owners and operators to note that the relationship between private-sector standards developers and the public sector has been strengthened with the 1995 passage of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (Public Law 104-113). The law requires government agencies to use privately developed standards, (such as those from ASTM or CPSC), whenever possible. Because of this, defendants are now facing claims they “knew or should have known” of this law and the requirement to comply with the applicable standards.
On The Side Of Caution
The American Youth Soccer League (AYSO), Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), U.S. Soccer, and many other organizations all say to anchor the goals. Notices in supplier catalogs state how important it is to anchor the goals, and warning labels are on the frame. So why are so many of the goals still unanchored?
I’ve testified as an expert witness in soccer goal cases, and it pains me to hear that coaches knew before an accident they were supposed to keep the goals anchored, but didn’t because it was a hassle. I also knew of a case in which a coach instructed four female students (on the first day of class) to move a 24-foot wide goal a football field away. They were not trained, nor did they have the strength to perform such a feat. Since the goal was too heavy, it slipped and struck a girl on her head, causing serious injuries. There were other choices available--the coaches themselves or other adults could move the goal, or use wheels to do the job or leave the goal anchored, etc.
Note that some anchoring methods are better than others. The main element to consider is the soil condition. For example, don’t use an auger or peg-style anchor in soft sand, since the auger will pull right out. This may seem like a no-brainer, but due to the number of times it’s been done, it needs to be repeated. Sandbags can work, but only if enough bags are placed according to the manufacturer’s specifications. When I was manufacturing goals, the flush-mount system of a concrete anchor (footer in the ground, with a threaded insert for a receiving bolt that went into the frame) worked best.
If you must move the goals, for whatever reason (field used for different functions, etc.), fasten wheels that are available for moving purposes. At a minimum, have enough trained manpower to do it correctly.
I offer the following tips, not just on anchoring, but on other safety aspects of soccer goals:
· Make sure the soccer goal is anchored at all times.
· When goals are unattended, anchor or chain them together to a fence (folded-down position), or other sturdy structure.
· Store goals where children cannot get to them.
· Never allow anyone to climb or hang on a goal.
· Remove nets when a goal is not in use.
· Be sure the safety warning labels are visible and intact. Replace them when they are not.
· Consider padding the framework to prevent impact injuries.
· Keep soccer goals on level (flat) fields.
Scott Burton owned and operated a major playground/park manufacturing company and sold it to continue as an international safety consultant. In the industry since 1981, he now owns Safety Play Inc., and travels the United States as well as overseas. He is a Certified Playground Safety Inspector, and is also S.A.F.E.-certified by the National Program for Playground Safety. Burton can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org