The boss of New Zealand Football (NZF) says the organisation is “grossly disappointed” to hear of an assault that occurred during a domestic match in Palmerston North over the weekend.
Hosts Palmerston North United lost to Gisborne Thistle 4-2 in the Central Federation League, with United midfielder Devon Batchelor physically assaulted by an opposition player. Batchelor was reportedly taken to hospital after the game for treatment.
The club confirmed Batchelor was diagnosed with a concussion and required stitches but is on the mend.
NZF’s chief executive Andrew Pragnell told the Herald he doesn’t have further factual information but has heard the police are involved.
“It’s a Federation-level competition so you know usually in these, generally as a rule of thumb, if the police are involved in that [it] will run its course,” Pragnell said.
“Obviously, it’s grossly disappointing if an assault occurred and, certainly [we] don’t have any tolerance for any violence in the game whatsoever.
“These types of things will also go to the relevant Federation disciplinary committee and be heard there as well.”
The Herald understands the incident occurred towards the end of the match when Thistle were fouled on a counter-attack. The player who was fouled is believed to have escalated his frustrations by punching Batchelor.
Fans took to social media, one saying: “It was terrible, and horrific to witness.”
Another said: “Oh my gosh it was so bad! Physically gasped when I saw him jump up and swing, disgusting actions on their part.”
“Sort it out Gisborne. Disgraceful,” said one X, formerly Twitter, user.
United’s statement was mainly about their player’s wellbeing but said: “Those of you that witnessed the incident will no doubt share our disgust at the actions of said Gisborne player. We were appalled at this assault on Devon and we hope he recovers quickly.
“There is no room in the game for this kind of disgraceful behaviour and is something that clubs and federations in New Zealand and overseas have worked hard to try and stamp out.
“We do not condone violence on the football field. The law does not change whether you are on a football field or on the street outside your house.”
Central Football confirmed it is working through the process but told the Herald it has nothing to add at this stage.
Bonnie Jansen is a Multimedia Journalist in the NZME Sports team. She’s a keen footballer and has worked with the Alternative Commentary Collective before joining the Te Rito cadetship scheme.