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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Goal refers to a method of scoring in many sports. It can also refer to the physical structure or area of the playing surface in which a score is made.

The structure of a goal can vary widely from sport to sport. In sports where goals are the sole method of scoring, the goal is often a rectangle structure set in the center of each end of the playing surface. Frequently, there is a net to catch the ball or puck as it is sent into the goal. Some sports do not require the net within their rules while others do.

Other sports, especially those that use field goals, have very different structures. Most have a variation on the theme of goal posts and crossbars (frequently an elevated crossbar supporting goal posts with the object being to have the ball pass over the crossbar, rather than under it.)


Methods of scoring

In some sports, the goal is the sole method of scoring, and in these sports, the final score is expressed in “goals” where the winner is the team that accumulates the larger number of goals in the given time.

In other sports, a goal is the primary, but not the sole method of scoring. In these sports, the goal is worth a set number of points, and there is another method of scoring which scores fewer points (often one point). In these sports, the score is expressed as the number of goals plus the number of alternate scores and the combined total of points with the winner being decided on total points. For example, an Australian Rules Football the score may be expressed as follows:

Sydney 10-4-64 Brisbane 9-12-66

In this example Sydney scored 10 goals (at six points each) and 4 behinds (one point each) for a total of 64 points. Brisbane scored 9 goals and 12 behinds for a total of 66 points. Despite having fewer goals, Brisbane won the game.

Other sports use a Field Goal as one of several methods of scoring. The field goal can be a primary or secondary score and is used when there are several possible scoring methods. In these sports, the object of the game is to score a greater number of total points than the opponent. Scores are expressed solely as numbers of points.


In many games, at each end of the field of play, there are two vertical posts (or uprights) supporting a horizontal crossbar. In some games, such as Association Football or Hockey, the object is to pass the ball between the posts below the crossbar, while in others, such as those based on Rugby, the ball must pass over the crossbar instead. In Gaelic football and Hurling, in which the goalposts are similar to those used in rugby, the ball can be kicked either under the crossbar for a goal, or over the crossbar through the posts for a point. There are other variants too.

The vertical supports are usually called Goal Posts and the horizontal top is usually called the Crossbar. Scores in these games normally require that the ball or puck be sent between the posts, under the crossbar and completely behind the goal line. The space under the crossbar and between the goal posts is colloquially referred to as the goal mouth.

In Australian Rules Football, there is no crossbar but 4 uprights instead. In Netball, a single post at each end of the court supports a horizontal hoop that the ball must fall through. While in Basketball, where the hoop and associated backboard was originally supported on a post, the posts themselves have been done away with in most cases, and the hoop and backboard now are suspended over the court from a stadium wall or ceiling.

In American football, especially at the collegiate level, fans flooding onto the field and tearing down the goalpoasts [1] after an upset victory by the home team is a widely practiced - if dangerous [2] - means of celebrating. In recent times stadium staff often lower the posts themselves to prevent spectators from taking down the posts if they see that fans are coming on to the field at the end of a game.

Goal-only sports

The goal is the only method of scoring in several games. In each of these cases the winner is the team that scores the more goals within the allotted time.


Association football

In association football, the goal is the sole method of scoring. It is also the term used for the scoring structure. To score a goal, the ball should pass totally over the goal line between the goal posts and under the crossbar and no rules may be violated (such as touching the ball with the hand or arm).[1]

The goal structure is defined as a frame 24 feet (7.32 m) wide by 8 feet (2.44 m) tall. Most commonly a net is used both to catch the ball and indicate that a goal has indeed been scored, however the net is not absolutely required.[2]

Ice hockey

In ice hockey, scoring a goal is similar to scoring a goal in Soccer. In Ice Hockey, the puck must be put completely over the goal line between the posts and under the bar either off the offensive player's stick or off any part of the defensive player's body. If the puck is inadvertently deflected by an offensive player's skate or body, the goal counts, but not if the puck is kicked, batted, or thrown into the goal.[3]

The goal structure in Ice Hockey is a frame 4 feet (1.2 m) tall and 6 feet (1.8 m) wide with a net attached. It is attached to the ice surface by flexible pegs and will break away for safety when hit by a player. The goal is placed within the playing surface, and players may play the puck behind the goal.[4]

Field hockey

In Field hockey, as in other sports, a goal is scored when the ball passes completely over the goal line under the crossbar and between the goal posts. Peculiar to field hockey is a rule that the shot must be taken within a semicircle 14.63 metres (48.0 ft) from the goal.[5]

The goal structure in Field Hockey is 3.66 metres (12.0 ft) wide by 2.14 metres (7.0 ft) tall. Nets are required to hold the ball in.[5]

Team handball

A goal in team handball is scored the same way as a goal in Soccer: the ball passes completely over the goal line, below the crossbar, and between the goal posts. In Handball, the ball must be thrown rather than kicked.[6]

The goal structure in Team Handball is 2 meters high and 3 meters wide. A net is required to catch the ball.[6]


Lacrosse goals are scored in the same manner as all of the above goals, the ball passing completely through the goal mouth. Goals can be disallowed if there is an infraction by the offensive team.[7]

The goal structure in Lacrosse is 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide and a net is required to prevent the ball from reentering the field of play. Lacrosse goals are not positioned on the boundary line, and behind the goal play is allowed.[7]

Water Polo

A goal in water polo is scored in the same manner as all the above sports, with the ball passing completely through the goal mouth. A goal may be scored by contact with any part of the attacker's body except a clenched fist.[8]

The goal structure in Water Polo is dependent upon the depth of the water. The goal mouth measures 3 meters across and is either 0.9 meters above the surface of the water or 2.4 meters above the floor of the pool, whichever is higher. Nets are required.[8]


In polo a goal is scored if the ball passes completely between the goal posts, regardless of how far off the ground the ball is. The ball must be between the goal posts or the imaginary lines extending above the inside edges of the posts. A ball passing directly over a goal post does not score a goal.[9]

The goal structure in Polo consists of two poles, at least 10 feet high and exactly 8 yards apart. There is no crossbar and no net is required. The height at which a goal may be scored is infinite.[9]

Other games

The following games have more than one possible method of scoring where the goal is the primary method, i.e. the method that scores the most points. In many cases the score is shown as the number of goals, plus the number of secondary scores (usually 1 point), plus the total number of points. Total points determines the winner.

Australian Rules Football

In Australian Rules Football a goal is scored when the ball is kicked by an offensive player completely between the goal posts. The ball may not contact or pass over the goal post, touch a player on the defensive team, or be touched by any part of the body of an attacker other than the foot or lower leg. The ball may be punted, drop kicked, or kicked off the ground if the ball is loose (called "soccer style" by some commentators). There is no height restriction on an Australian Football Goal and a goal can be scored from ground level up to an infinite height. A goal scores 6 points. The alternate method of scoring is a behind, which scores one point. A goal disallowed by the above provisions still scores a behind.[10]

The goal structure consists of two poles at least 6 meters in height and spaced 6.4 meters apart. There is no crossbar and no net is required.[10]

Gaelic Football and Hurling

In Gaelic Football a goal is scored in the same manner as in Soccer, with the ball passing completely through the goal mouth. While the ball may be played with the hands in the field of play, the hands may not be used to score a goal.[11]

In Hurling the ball must also pass completely through the goal mouth. The ball may be played by any legal method except by the hand of the attacker. A ball in flight may, however, be deflected into the goal off the hand of an attacker.[11]

In both sports, a goal scores three points. The alternate method of scoring is a point. A point scores by legally playing the ball above the crossbar and between the extended goal posts.[11]

Hurling and Gaelic Football use the same goal structure. It is a 6.5 meter wide frame with a net attached. The goal posts are at least 7 meters high, and the crossbar is 2.5 meters above the ground. A goal scores below the crossbar and a point above it.[11]


In Basketball a field goal scores when a ball, during normal play, passes completely through the hoop from above. A field goal scored from inside the three-point line scores 2 points. From outside the three-point line a field goal scores 3 points. The three point line's distance from the goal varies by level. Any ball touched by a defender before going through the hoop scores two points regardless of where the shot originated. The alternate method of scoring in basketball is the free throw which scores one point. A free throw scores the same way as a field goal, except that it is taken unopposed from the free-throw line after a foul. Basketball scores are expressed in total points.[12]

The goal in Basketball is a metal hoop, 18 inches in diameter. The hoop is suspended horizontally, 10 feet above the floor. There is a net attached below the hoop to briefly check the ball's downward progress and indicate a score.[13]

Sports with Goals as Secondary Scoring

The following sports have a goal – sometimes called a Field Goal -- as a secondary method of scoring. The field goal is worth a set number of points that may vary with the situation. These sports express their scores solely in points.

American and Canadian Football

A Field Goal in American or Canadian Football is a secondary method of scoring in both sports. The field goal is scored when the ball is place kicked or drop kicked completely over the crossbar and between or directly over the goal posts. A field goal scores three points in both versions of the sport.[14][15]

In the NFL and CFL, the goal structure consists of a crossbar suspended 10 feet off the ground and goal posts extending at least 30 feet above the crossbar. The whole apparatus is 18 feet, 6 inches wide. In the NFL, a net is placed behind the goal to prevent the ball from leaving the field of play.[15][16] Goals at levels other than professional may have different dimensions.

Arena Football

In Arena Football the Field Goal is nearly identical to that of the NFL and the CFL. Place kicked, the Arena Football field goal scores 3 points, but drop kicked, it scores 4 points.[17]

The goal structure in Arena Football consists of a crossbar 15 feet above the playing surface and 9 ½ feet wide. The goal posts are attached to nets on either side of the crossbar. The nets are 30 feet wide and 37 feet high and do not represent a scoring area. There is also a “slack net” between the goal posts to keep the ball in the field of play.[17]

Rugby League and Rugby Union

A goal is scored in either rugby code by place kicking or drop kicking a ball over a crossbar and between goal posts. In rugby union, a goal scored from the field either as a drop kick during normal play or a place kick after a foul scores 3 points. In rugby league, a goal scored from the field as a drop kick scores one point, and a goal from a place kick after a foul scores two points. In both codes, a goal scored by place kick after a try scores 2 points.[18]

The goal structure consists of a crossbar 5.6 meters wide suspended 3 meters above the field. The goal posts must be at least 3.4 meters high, measured from the ground.[19]

Use in language

The expression "moving the goalpost", which means to make a set of goals more difficult just as they are being met, is often used in business but is derived from American football. It is commonly used to imply bad faith on the part of those setting goals for others to meet, by arbitrarily making additional demands just as the initial ones are about to be met.

In business, the concept is more abstract, with some performance measure or target being set as a goalpost while achieving the target is often known as achieving a goal.

See also


  1. ^ "Laws of the game (Law 10)". Federation Internationale de Futbol Associacion (FIFA). Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  2. ^ "Laws of the game (Law 1)". FIFA. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  3. ^ "NHL Rulebook (Rule 57: Goals and Assists)". National Hockey League (NHL). Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  4. ^ "NHL Rulebook (Rule 3: Goalposts and nets)". NHL. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  5. ^ a b "Rules of Hockey 2007-2008". Fédération Internationale de Hockey sur Gazon (FIH). Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  6. ^ a b "International Handball Federation: Rules of the Game". International Handball Federation (IHF). Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  7. ^ a b "NCAA Lacrosse: 2008 Men's Rules and Interpretations". NCAA. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  8. ^ a b "USA Water Polo Rules/FINA". USA Water Polo. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  9. ^ a b "Outdoor Rules". United States Polo Association. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  10. ^ a b "Laws of Australian Football: 2007". Australian Football League. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Official Guide 2003: Playing Rules, Hurling and Football". Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  12. ^ "Rule no. 5 – Scoring and Timing". National Basketball Association (NBA). Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  13. ^ "Rule no. 1 – Court Dimensions -- Equipment". NBA. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  14. ^ "NFL Beginner's Guide to Football". National Football League (NFL). Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  15. ^ a b "Official Playing Rules for the Canadian Football League, 2007". Canadian Football League (CFL). Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  16. ^ "NFL Digest of Rules: Field". NFL. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  17. ^ a b "AFL 101". Arena Football League (AFL). Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  18. ^ "Law 11. Method of Scoring". University of Idaho. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  19. ^ "Field Plan". University of Idaho. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 


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