By Blake Belden
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – The House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee will consider a proposal to approve, but delay implementation of, a bill seeking to prevent injury or death from falling soccer goals.
A Health, Welfare and Institutions subcommittee unanimously recommended that Senate Bill 933 be passed with a re-enactment clause. That means that even if the bill wins approval from the Senate, House and Gov. Bob McDonnell this year, the General Assembly must vote on it again in 2014 before it can take effect.
The bill, known as the Movable Soccer Goal Safety Act, 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.
Under amendments added by the subcommittee last week, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation would organize a stakeholders’ work group to study the issues of movable goals, player safety and referee responsibility. The group would help determine whether legislation should be passed to address such issues.
The subcommittee’s decision comes in response to opponents’ contentions that SB 933 would impose unnecessary costs on many sports leagues and have intended consequences.
In testimony before the subcommittee, Eldon James, a board member for the Virginia Recreation and Parks Society, said, “We are fearful that in addressing the youth soccer issue, we’re going to affect a much broader array of programs where we don’t have the same degree of problems.”
Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Winchester, who sponsored the bill, was amenable to the recommendation by the subcommittee.
“The legislation is not really meant to impose a burden or financial burden on leagues. It is prospective. It applies going forward,” Vogel said.
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.
“Ignorance to the danger [of soccer goals] is still widespread at all levels. Everyone must be educated about the dangers so that they can be empowered to take action when they encounter unsecured goals,” Mary Ellias said in testimony to the House subcommittee.
The Senate voted 33-6 for the bill in January.