ParalympicsGB did not take a Goalball team to Beijing, but both the GB men’s and women’s teams made many improvements to their performance programme in the 2008-2012 cycle and moved strongly towards London 2012, following their successful bid to achieve their home nation slots for the Games. 

Goalball is a sport for athletes with visual impairments. It is played by two teams of three using a ball with bells inside. The ball is the size of a basketball but twice the weight.

The object of the game is to throw the ball into the opposing team's net, while defenders attempt to block it with their bodies. The indoor court has tactile lines to assist players with their orientation on court and the ball must make contact with certain areas of the court during the game.

The GB women’s team included teenager Georgina Bullen, who was just 14 when she won European gold in 2009 with her fellow team-mates in Munich, Germany, and Anna Sharkey, who’s brother Michael also competed for Great Britain at London 2012.

The men’s team have many new young talents coming through including the Knott brothers. Team stalwart Simon Goodall has been playing the sport since 1989.

Goalball At London 2012, the women's team had a fantastic run in the competition to reach the quarter-final stage of the competition, losing out on a 'golden goal' to Sweden. The men's team found themslves in a difficult pool and lost four of their five prelimiary matches, earning a draw against Sweden as their only point. As a result they didn't progress to the quarter-final stages, but the experience will stand them in good stead as they move into the Rio cycle.

  • First year at a Paralympic Games:
  • Toronto 1976 (men)
    New York 1984 (women)
  • Brief history:
  • Goalball was created as a form of rehabilitation for injured servicemen returning from World War II
  • Eligible impairment groups:
  • All athletes are visually impaired and wear eyeshades so they can compete fairly no matter what their degree of vision
  • London medal table:
  • Men's team table
    1 - Finland
    2 - Brazil 
    3 - Turkey 
    Women's team table
    1 - Japan
    2 - China
    3 - Sweden
  • Did you know:
  • Top Goalball players throw the ball at speeds of around 60mph
  • London 2012 venue:
  • Copper Box, Olympic Park
  • Rio 2016 venue:
  • Rio Olympic Park (Barra Zone)


Teams consist of six players, with no more than three from each side on the pitch at one time, in matches of two 10-minute halves. For London 2012, this will increase to 12 minutes per half.

Goalball is played by two teams of three athletes on an indoor Volleyball court without the central net, with goals (9m wide, 1.3m high) at either end.

Outside of the group stages, drawn matches are resolved by overtime (two halves of three minutes, or until a goal is scored) and, if necessary, extra throws (the Goalball equivalent to a penalty shootout).

In contrast to the cheers and applause that ring out around most Paralympic Games’ venues, the Goalball arena is silent during play. This is to allow the players to hear the ball, which has a bell inside it.


Goalball is one of only a few sports in the Paralympic Games where there is only one classification. All players must have a visual impairment, but to ensure that there is a level playing field, all athletes must wear black-out masks so that no player can see.


The BPA would like to see lots of people engaging with the news and information that we post on our website. If you would like to participate in the conversation, however, please ensure you comply with the House Rules. The BPA reserves the right to remove posts which do not comply with these Rules or which are considered irrelevant to the post.

Back to top