Ottawa soccer clubs welcome new law but says education needed on net safety

Photos taken approximately 10 minutes before Garrett Mills's death show him having fun at the park. A new Ontario law has been named after Mills. (Facebook - image credit)

Ottawa soccer clubs are welcoming new provincial legislation that requires moveable nets to be secured but also say more time needs to be spent educating kids on safety in the sport.

Garrett's Legacy Act, which received royal assent last week, lays out requirements for safe usage of movable soccer goals that are used by members of the public.

The act is named after 15-year-old Garrett Mills from Napanee, Ont., who died instantly in 2017 when a 90-kilogram movable soccer net fell on top of him after he had been hanging from it.

Those new requirements include placing moveable nets on a level surface, securely attaching them to the ground if located outdoors and securely attaching to the floor using weights if located indoors.

The penalty for failing to comply with the requirements prescribed in the bill is a fine of $500 each day the offence occurs up to a maximum of $5,000.

'We're going to have to make the adjustment'

"It's absolutely tragic. It's unfathomable to me that something like that happened," said Ottawa South United Soccer (OSU) president and coach Bill Michalopoulos of Garrett's death.

Throughout his 30 years of coaching, Michalopoulos said it's all too common for kids to find themselves tempted to climb nets and place themselves in potentially unsafe situations.

It's why the OSU, and many other clubs, have switched from metal nets to lightweight, collapsible nets that are impossible to climb.

"The few portable nets that we have that are metal, we're going to have to make the adjustment," said Michalopoulos.

Kim Gamble, executive director for Ottawa City Soccer Club, said she also welcomes the new legislation, but said educating players on safe practice remains important.

"Making sure all facilities, all those involved have a really good awareness of what the requirements are and the accessibility of making sure the right materials are available," she said.

Ontario Soccer, which oversees soccer clubs and associations across the province, updated its policies around moveable nets Wednesday to align with the new legislation.