By Randy Vogt
The goals are 8 yards in length by 8 feet high. The youngest age groups in youth soccer will often use smaller goals. The goalposts must be white. Should referees come to a field with goalposts that are not white, play the game and report the color of the goal posts to the league.
Check to make certain that there are no holes in the net that the ball could squeeze through, such as an opening between the net and the crossbar, goalposts or the area between the net and the ground. I cannot tell you how many times that I have been to fields that have been played on that day in which there are several visible holes in the nets that the ref did not try and tape.
Every once in awhile, the official’s view of a shot resulting in a goal will not be ideal. Perhaps he or she was screened or was at a bad angle or the sun was in the referee’s eyes. Making certain that there are no holes before the game eliminates potential problems on the vitally important task of whether to count a goal during the match.
Interestingly, according to the Laws of the Game, it is not necessary for the goals to have nets. Hopefully, every game that you will be officiating will have them. Only once in my career was I ever confronted with refereeing a match without nets. This is a time when having your cell phone in your referee case with important phone numbers of league officials, referees and assignors is useful so that you can find out what the local league’s opinion is of playing a game without nets.
Many portable or temporary goals now have wheels near the front post to help move the goals. When you are checking the goals, make sure that the wheel is pushed back off the goal line.
Most importantly, though, is the fact that the goals must be anchored to the ground. Should the goal not be anchored, the home team or host organization is responsible for placing weights, sand bags, etc. on the back and sides of the goal to make certain that it will not fall over. Should they not do this upon your prompting, do not start the game.
To illustrate how dangerous this could be, pick up one goal post off the ground to demonstrate to all concerned how easily the goal can be dislodged. But be sure that there are no players or others nearby when you do this!
A decade ago, I was an assistant referee for a tournament game played near where I live on Long Island. Before the match, I checked the south goal and it was sufficiently anchored. During the first half, the north goal, which had been checked by the other assistant referee (AR), fell over. Obviously, the other AR did not check to see if the goal had been anchored. Thankfully, nobody was hit or killed. The goal was immediately anchored so that the game could continue.
There is no bigger safety issue on a soccer field than falling goals. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, from 1979 to 2008, at least 34 fatalities and 51 major injuries in the United States occurred have been linked to unanchored or portable soccer goals. An estimated 120 people per year were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries stemming from soccer goalposts during the period from 1989 to 1993. The serious injuries and deaths have been the result of blunt force trauma to the head, neck, chest and limbs.
Most of these serious injuries and fatalities occurred during practice sessions when nobody such as coaches or other adults checked the goals to see that they were anchored before training began. Another concern is goals not being used for training but that remain unanchored on soccer fields.
Taking a couple of minutes to check that the goals are anchored upon arriving at the field could save a life and a lifetime of regret.
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 8,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In his book, Preventive Officiating, he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at http://www.preventiveofficiating.com/)