Time to shift the goalposts on equipment safety

Sports providers should ensure they buy compliant equipment and maintain it regularly to optimise safety levels for participants 

When specifying sports equipment such as goalposts, it’s vital to ensure you’re buying tried and tested products that meet current safety standards.

Structurally unsound goalposts for example hold the potential to cause injury and worse if they collapse – and that happened on a playing field in 2012, resulting in the unfortunate death of a child.

The goalpost in question had been erected reportedly with sections of old gas piping to save costs but the price paid in a lost life proved severe indeed.

While a British Standard covers the safety of thousands of goalposts in action daily across Britain, fears are mounting that unregulated examples are penetrating the sector.

Those managing sports sites should expect products they purchase to meet current safety norms and are supplied by reputable companies but demonstrating best practice also depends on regular checks and correct maintenance by operators.

Trade body SAPCA (Sports & Play Construction Association) represents businesses across the spectrum of provision committed to raising the quality standards of all sports facilities designed, built and maintained throughout the UK.

Its 250 members include contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, consultants, test laboratories and sports governing bodies – all directly involved in developing sports and play facilities.

Although not testing equipment per se, SAPCA does scrutinise those seeking membership of the association.  “We vet companies rather than products,” stresses Chief Executive Chris Trickey, “for both financial status and customer service. Also, our educational and informative role helps those running sports facilities to make more informed choices about products.

“We encourage them to buy the right quality for their requirements,” he explains, “and urge them to avoid purchasing purely on price as some goalposts fail to comply with the BSI standard and are potentially dangerous.”

A SAPCA member, Mark Harrod Ltd manufactures and supplies an array of BS certified football and hockey goalposts direct to schools, colleges, local authorities, contractors and sports clubs.

“Health and safety is certainly a big issue now,” states Head of Sales Mike Bugajski, who has serviced the sector for more than a decade, “but I am shocked by just how many providers fail to maintain sports equipment adequately.

“We are here to give advice and guidance on what is the correct goalposts for the application,” he adds, “as so many options are available now, for both natural and, increasingly, for synthetic surfaces.”

That’s of little comfort though if equipment is neglected or set up unsafely for play, he says. “Operators must ensure they follow manufacturers’ guidelines – fitting counterbalancing weights where necessary to maintain stability and avoiding undue frame strain on moveable goals by keeping wheels in the `drop` position when not in use.”

And when schools or club budgets can be challenging, regular maintenance will optimise safety and lengthen equipment lifetime considerably, he notes.

Governing bodies of sport also steer compliancy, reinforced by grassroots vigilance among those running facilities. Mark Harrod Ltd partners the English Schools FA and will be consulting over the coming months in relation to safety and maintenance to help raise the standard of working practices.

The unstated enemy is complacency. The presence in the marketplace of non-compliant equipment twinned with sloppy maintenance and testing practices could spell another fatality waiting to happen. Fortunately, sector bodies and suppliers such as Mark Harrod Ltd have the experience and know-how to avoid another tragedy.

“Never underestimate the dangers of unregulated sports equipment,” stresses Mark Harrod’s communications co-ordinator Darren Byrne. “If you plan to purchase goalposts and have any concerns about their safety, our experienced team can advise you before you buy.”

Mike’s Maintenance checklist

Assign someone to inspect equipment for loose parts, cracks or breakages;

Develop a maintenance schedule and adhere to it;

Inform users of the correct methods of moving and storing equipment;

Educate equipment users on the safety issues surrounding goalposts;

Ensure users feel comfortable to air any safety concerns with equipment