Senate OKs soccer goal safety law

A bill that aims to prevent death or injury from falling soccer goals has cleared the Senate and is now being considered by the House.

The Senate voted 33-6 last week to approve Senate Bill 933, known as the Movable Soccer Goal Safety Act. A movable soccer goal is a freestanding structure that consists of at least two upright posts, a crossbar and support bars but no secure form of support or restraint.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Winchester, would require every organization that owns such a goal to “establish a soccer goal safety and education policy that outlines how the organization will address any safety concern related to movable soccer goals, including the dangers of unanchored or improperly anchored soccer goals tipping over and the care that must be taken to ensure proper installation, setup, maintenance, and transportation of movable soccer goals.”

The Senate Education and Health Committee, on a 12-2 vote, had recommended that the full Senate pass the measure.

The bill comes almost five years after a fatal accident involving a boy from Stephens City, a town in Frederick County, which is in Vogel’s Senate district.

On May 7, 2007, Hayden Ellias, 10, was killed during a soccer scrimmage when a soccer goal fell over on top of him. His mother, Mary, “is the impetus for the bill,” said Tricia Stiles, Vogel’s legislative assistant.

Testifying before the Senate Education and Health Committee, Mary Ellias said: “There have been 32 reported deaths resulting from soccer goal tip-overs, most of which occurred at a practice. How do you explain to your children that their brother is dead because a soccer goal was not properly anchored?”

The bill would require parks, schools, youth clubs, soccer organizations and any other organization that uses a movable soccer goal to take action to ensure goal safety and prevent accidents.

SB 933 also would require that only tip-resistant movable soccer goals could be sold, made or distributed in Virginia after July 1, 2014.

“Prototypes for the tip-resistant soccer goals are being developed now,” Stiles said.

The bill does not contain a specific penalty; however, legal repercussions will arise for the organizations that fail to comply with the requirements, Stiles said.

Arkansas, Illinois and Wisconsin are among states that have passed similar laws to promote soccer goal safety.

“The attorney that was assigned to draft [the Movable Soccer Goal Safety Act] did look up the language from other states and did use some of that as a prototype for this,” Stiles said.

After passage by the Senate on Jan. 22, the bill was assigned to the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee. If approved by that committee, it would be voted on by the full House of Delegates.

The Ellias family has established an organization called Hayden’s Goal “to prevent injuries and deaths caused by the improper handling and use of soccer goals by increasing public knowledge and awareness about their correct setup and use.”

“It’s our mission – ‘Hayden’s Goal’ – to spread the word about anchoring goals and using [tip-resistant] goals. Referees, coaches, managers, players and especially parents need to know what they can do to prevent another tragedy like Hayden’s,” Mary Ellias said.
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