The Derby County attacker has questioned why it took so long for football’s governing bodies to postpone matches after the Covid-19 outbreak
Wayne Rooney has claimed “footballers in England were being treated like guinea pigs” before the 2019-20 campaign was put on hold, with the coronavirus causing huge disruptions to the sporting calendar across the world.
Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1 all called a halt to their respective domestic seasons in Italy, Spain and France after a rise in cases of Covid-19, but the Premier League and EFL were due to carry on as scheduled before two positive tests were announced on Thursday.
The Premier League and EFL decided to postpone all fixtures until April 4 and 3rd respectively, with it now possible that Euro 2020 could be delayed by a year to allow enough time for the club football season to be concluded.
England’s prime minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation on Wednesday to outline plans to move into the “delay phase” of the coronavirus epidemic, with the number of confirmed cases in the country now at 1,140 and the death toll rising to 21.
Derby County captain Rooney has expressed his belief that the footballing authorities failed to act quickly enough to ensure the safety of players, while also insisting he is happy to play on until September in order to complete the current season.
“After the emergency meeting, at last the right decision was made,” Rooney wrote in his column for The Times. “Until then it almost felt like footballers in England were being treated like guinea pigs.
“The rest of sport – tennis, Formula One, rugby, golf, football in other countries – was closing down and we were being told to carry on.
“At Derby County, we sat at training on Thursday waiting for Boris Johnson to speak. People were anxious. Thankfully football made the right call in the end. We had to put the season on hold. Some people won’t be happy but I just think, in this case, football has to come second. It’s a sport. It’s just a sport.
“If people’s lives are at risk, that has to come first – regardless of whether you’re going to win the league title, whether you’re trying to get into Europe or whether you’re going to get relegated or promoted.
“We’re happy to play until September if the season extends to then, if that’s how it has to be. That’s our job. As long as we know we’re safe to play and it’s a safe environment for spectators, we’ll play.
“The next World Cup is in November and December 2022, so you could actually use this situation as an opportunity and say we’re going to finish the 2019-20 season later this year, then prepare for 2022 by having the next two seasons starting in winter.”