By Brenda Smith
Key Themes: loss of a child, grief, family, special needs child, overcoming adversity
The author tragically lost her young son Jonathan, aged 11, in an accident involving unsafe goalposts in January 1991. Since that time she has campaigned, fiercely and tirelessly to make football a safe game for other children to play and her campaign has involved her in meetings with Sports Ministers, Football Association Managers, Members of Parliament, and Television, Radio, and Newspaper interviews. Until this tragedy nobody would have believed the strength she has to fight.
During this campaign her efforts have involved such heartache because each time she thought that legislation on safety was in sight another tragedy involving unsafe goalposts occurred and she addressed the hurt that other parents were feeling when another 10 children, in the UK alone, died in separate incidents due to unsafe goalposts. Each time she again went through the empathetic pain of losing her much loved son.
Whilst coping with the campaign the author gave birth to Laura, a severely disabled little girl, who became the “Light of her Life”. Her book charts Laura’s progress from her initial diagnosis, and the doctor’s assessment that Laura would never walk or talk, through to her teenage years. The author’s fighting spirit and that of her family, along with Laura’s tenacity to prove everybody wrong on so many occasions, has won through and the book tells how she has worked so hard to make Laura’s life the very best it can be. This lovely, happy little girl is at the centre of what is a real, loving family and the book itself is Laura‘s story. It is a very inspiring read, especially to anyone who has received the devastating news that their child is not the perfect little person they expected them to be.
About the Author
Mrs Brenda Smith is 53 and the mother of an autistic child with complex special needs. She is a wife, mother and grandmother and is employed as a Clerical Assistant with the Civil Service.
Brenda lost her young son in a tragic accident involving unsafe goalposts and has campaigned for 15 years to try to get legislation in place for all goalposts to be safe in an effort to protect other children. She had lost a much loved child and been given a child that needed so much care and attention, and she always will.
Brenda enjoyed writing the book and feels that if she had read a similar book it would have given her the strength and hope that she needed after she heard the news that Laura had such complex special needs.
We were both with Jonathan on that fateful day – 13th January 1991- and vivid action replays of the events of that day will be with me forever.
Jonathan was football mad, like many boys of his age, and he played for a local team. On that day we had travelled with the team to an away match. There had been a heavy overnight frost and it was uncertain whether the game would go ahead. If only it hadn’t!
The boys all went to look around the pitch and the parents were directed to the clubhouse. I looked out of the window and saw a few boys playing and a child fall, my child.
I ran out of the clubhouse towards Jonathan but was prevented from reaching him by the other adults. The ambulance crew arrived within minutes and so did a doctor. I knew in my heart that he had died. They were working on him and I wasn’t allowed to go in the ambulance.
Everyone did all they could but Jonathan died of a ruptured heart, which was caused by an unsafe mobile goal post falling on his chest.
Little did I know that over the next few years I would be campaigning for legislation and guidelines, to prevent similar accidents, which have since killed 10 more children, just in this country.
Jonathan’s team went on to win all the main trophies that season and we were given small ones which all the boys received. These stand on a shelf in the living room alongside his photo. Also Gary his manager had a trophy made in his name which is presented each year at the five a side tournament.
Campaigning is extremely hard and time consuming. At times I feel I am banging my head against a brick wall. People seem to be interested but don’t understand the implications of the safety of mobile goalposts. I have become obsessed.
It comes in waves, someone takes an interest and the papers print the story again. Every time another child dies the papers, television and radio contact me for my reaction. It is very hard for me to make my feelings known in a way that I don’t want children and parents to stop playing football, but to highlight the dangers of the goalposts.
I have had meetings with the Sports Minister, the Football Association and at intervals have had their backing, but the majority of the time I have campaigned alone.
In 1999 I became friendly with another mother who had also lost a son in a goalpost
accident. We talked tirelessly on the phone about what to do next, how to make the public more aware of the securing and safety of goalposts. Sadly my friend died, so this makes me even more determined to carry on my fight.
The Football Association at last, after nine long years has begun to help me. The government also has taken a great deal of interest and posters and leaflets have been distributed to local education authorities and football clubs all over the country. I have to prompt the Football Association, well kick them into action every now and then!
The poster /leaflet used a picture of Jonathan and the son of the mother that I was campaigning with. These were eventually sent to all football clubs in the country adult and children’s, league and non league. They were also sent to local councils and schools. The only problem with this is that I hope all the relevant people e.g. grounds man and P.E. teachers saw them.
Unfortunately still more children have died needlessly and children have also been injured. The frustration and the anger I feel at this time, I cannot explain. Recently less than 1 mile from where I live, 100yards from where Jonathan is at rest, I saw a goalpost laying on its side, unsecured, my feelings…….how much more can I say or do, I am getting so tired and weary.