The chief executive of New Zealand Football (NZF), Andrew Pragnell expressed his ‘profound disappointment’ upon learning about an assault incident during a recent domestic game in Palmerston North. In the Central Federation League, during a match where Palmerston North United suffered a loss to the Gisborne Thistle with a score of 4-2, United’s midfielder, Devon Batchelor, was grievously assaulted by an opposition player. Batchelor was rapidly transported to a local hospital following the game.
The club confirmed Batchelor’s diagnosis as he sustained a concussion and required stitches for his injuries. Currently, he’s under recovery. Andrew Pragnell, when speaking to the Herald, admitted to a lack of further information on the incident. However, he acknowledged the involvement of the police in the aftermath.
He expressed his stance on such incidents stating that Federation-level competitions usually allow any involvement of the police to “run its course”. Undeniably distressed, Pragnell disclaimed any tolerance on the part of NZF towards violence in football. He added, “These type of actions will surely be addressed by the appropriate Federation disciplinary committee as well.”
According to the Herald, the assault transpired towards the climax of the match when the Thistle team was fouled during a counter-attack. The assaulted player, in an escalated fit of anger, reportedly punched Batchelor. The event caused shockwaves among the fans, who vociferously voiced their outrage on social media. Fans echoed the sentiments, “It was terrible, horrifying to witness,” and “Such actions on the field were absolutely disgustful.”
Palmerston North United, while primarily expressing concern about their player’s wellbeing, indicated their disgust at the offending Gisborne player’s behavior during the incident. In their statement, they condemned the assault on Batchelor and stated their hopes for his quick recovery.
The statement expressed zero tolerance towards such disgraceful behavior, saying, “There is no room in the game for such misconduct.” The statement reinforced the urgent need to expel violence from football, a sentiment widely shared by clubs and federations in New Zealand and beyond.
Central Football, while confirming their involvement in the ongoing process, informed the Herald that at present, there is no additional information they are able to provide.