The governing body‘s executive committee has opted to stick with Pragnell, who will be able to provide continuity and hit the ground running, which is important as there is plenty of work to be done after the events of the past year.
He will join three executive committee [ExCo] members at next month’s Fifa congress in Paris ahead of the start of the Fifa Women‘s World Cup and once he returns home, one of his first tasks will be overseeing the country’s bid to host that event in 2023.
Previous chief executive Andy Martin abruptly ended his four-year tenure in the role on June 29 last year, saying in a statement that he was retiring to spend more time with his family and fellow his beloved Liverpool FC more closely.
Martin’s exit came less than two weeks after a dozen Football Ferns wrote to him and ExCo complaining about the conduct of national women‘s team coach Andreas Heraf, saying they wouldn’t play again if Heraf remained in charge.
Heraf resigned in August and was later found to have engaged in bullying behaviour by employment lawyer Phillipa Muir, who conducted an independent review into NZ Football‘s conduct and culture at a cost of $250,000.
Muir was limited in what she could say about Martin because of the terms under which he departed, though she did say she had received “strong feedback” about him.
In her report, published in early October, Muir found there needed to be “a greater focus on staff wellbeing and developing the people” at NZ Football, that it needed “to rebuild a sense of trust and engagement among staff,” and that it needed “to lead from the top in terms of living [its] values”.
Pragnell did not initially apply for the role, but said in February that he had had a change of heart over the summer and was open to the possibility, having resigned from his previous job as manager of the partnerships team at Sport New Zealand.
The recruitment process resumed in late March, with applications for the role closing on April 5, three days after this year‘s annual congress, the timing arranged so interviews would take place and a decision would be made once ExCo had received a fresh mandate from the game’s voting members.
Deryck Shaw resigned as ExCo president in October last year after the release of the Muir review, “to allow football to move forward,” with vice-president Phil Barry assuming the role on an interim basis.
The organisation is currently without a technical director and chief operating officer, with youth football development manager Andy Boyens and player welfare manager Megan Crockett filling those roles on an interim basis since August and February respectively.
It is also in need of a high performance manager, a junior football development manager and a new manager for the Future Ferns Domestic Programme, who will also take charge of the under-20 women‘s team.
Current FFDP assistant Gemma Lewis will be a heavy favourite to step up in the latter role, with Gareth Turnbull finishing at the start of July after four years at NZ Football, ahead of a move across the Tasman.