3 minute read
I recently took a walk on a warm autumn afternoon, ending up at a local park. Dogs, kids and teenagers were out enjoying the sunshine. But I was dismayed to find, dotted across the park, more than a dozen soccer goals not anchored to the ground.
Anchoring soccer goals is a vital measure to minimise the risk of the posts toppling onto someone, especially a child. Serious injuries and fatalities have occurred in Australia and elsewhere when soccer goals have fallen.
It’s disappointing that whoever’s responsible for managing the soccer equipment at my local park has not made sure the goals are safe, especially when unattended by any officials. I worry though that many other parks around the suburban Australia will be the same.
If moveable soccer goals are installed incorrectly, or used inappropriately, death and serious injury can happen. The victims are often young kids and teenagers. Worldwide there have been more than 40 deaths and many more serious injuries. In Australia there have been at least seven deaths and one incident resulting in the person becoming paraplegic.
Specifically, blunt force injuries and trauma – to the head, neck, chest and limbs – can occur if soccer goals are unstable, especially if not properly anchored or used inappropriately, such as swinging on goalposts or cross bars.
How to fix it
A mandatory product safety standard has been in place since 2011 and was reaffirmed in 2017 after an ACCC review. This regulation requires soccer goals sold in the marketplace to have anchoring pegs and be marked with prominent warnings.
The standard states that moveable soccer goals must have at least one anchor point at each side of the rear ground bar. The warning labels must be placed in three positions on the goal on the underside of the crossbar and on the outside of both goal upright posts.
As well, a moveable goal must not tip over or fail to return to its original position when subjected to a test procedure.
This video neatly explains both the injury risk and how to address it:
The mandatory standard only regulates the sale of goals. It doesn’t cover how they are used. Even if the goal passes stability tests, it can still topple if not anchored, especially if someone swings on the frame.
If goals were made incapable of toppling, they’d be too heavy to move. This is a product safety issue that relies on users’ actions to complete the hazard management process. A brochure that promotes safe use is widely distributed.
The ones I saw at my local park all had the proper labels. However, none were anchored to the ground. Only half had anchor pegs attached to the goals, the other half didn’t even have pegs.
Leaving goals out when not in use, especially if not anchored, is a significant risk.
I imagine responsibility sits with some or all of: football associations, local soccer clubs and local councils. A quick look online tells me that numerous organisations provide rules and instructions on the need to always anchor moveable soccer goals, for example, NSW Education department. It’s hard to tell though whether anyone is checking compliance. I have reported what I observed at my local park to my suburban Melbourne council.
In the 2000s, of my ACCC colleagues took great care to ensure awareness and compliance by those managing soccer facilities after the death of three-year-old India Verity in NSW in 2003. Twenty years later, in 2023 no-one can afford to be complacent.
And if, after reading this, you’re walking through a park, have a look at any moveable soccer goals and if they’re not anchored, tell the local club and your council.