PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) – The former president of the Greene County Soccer Association said Saturday state lawmakers have contacted him in regards to Jonathan's Law, which passed unanimously in the Arkansas House of Representatives last week.
Jonathan's Law would have required all non-profit and for profit soccer organizations to purchase new goals and implement other safety standards. Vernon Higgins said lawmakers contacted him Saturday morning with a change of heart. The Arkansas State Soccer Association has claimed to other media outlets that they hope the bill is amended to undo financial difficulties.
Higgins said while he opposed the first version of Jonathan's Law, he supports any efforts lawmakers make to increase child safety.
"We need help from the parents and from the community and the coaches. Everybody always needs to think of child safety and keep the kids off the nets," said Higgins. "We're telling them to get off the goals, get out of the nets because the thing is, we don't want them to get hurt. We want them to know that they're not a jungle gym. They're not something you play on. They're a soccer goal. Most importantly, we just need help from the parents to pay attention and also be mindful of the fact that they don't need to be playing on the goals."
Higgins said soccer goals can cost thousands of dollars, and a law requiring non-profit organizations to purchase new goals would be difficult.
"We just don't have the money to purchase everything that we need all the time," said Higgins. "Goals are costly. I mean goals cost a lot of money. You're going to pay anywhere in the range of $600 for a small set of goals to as much as $7,000 for a large set of goals."
Jonathan's Law was passed after lawmakers heard testimony of the father of Jonathan Nelson, who was killed in January after an unanchored soccer goal fell on him.
"Our goals have always been anchored. That's something we take very important at the Greene County Soccer Association is child safety. From the aspect to playing on the field to goals being anchored, everything is about child safety," said Higgins. "As long as the goals are built sturdy, the main thing is having the goals anchored and the goals are secured. They're a sturdy, frame built goal."
Coaches in the Greene County Soccer Association said Saturday they've seen accidents before.
"I don't think many people realize it at all really. I've seen a bunch of people climbing on it over the years. They think they can just kind of climb up and down it, just kind of use it as a jungle gym. They don't really know the danger that's actually there," said Trevor Grambling, who coaches a group of 5 and 6 year olds.
"I know before I was with the organization a child got hurt by a goal by playing on one like it was a jungle gym," said Higgins. "Jonathan's Law is where a child that was up in Bentonville at an elementary school was playing on a goal and the goal tipped over. Obviously it wasn't anchored and it fell over and killed the young child."
The Greene County Soccer Association has an estimated 600 participants, not including parents and coaches.