Wayne Rooney has hit out at the British Government and football authorities for failing to cancel games sooner in the outbreak of Covid-19.
After an “emergency meeting” on Friday, it was announced that the Premier League and EFL seasons are suspended until at least April 4, however, in his column for The Times, Rooney accused the bodies of waiting until players and those involved were exposed before making the decision.
Last Thursday, Arsenal confirmed that manager Mikel Arteta had tested positive for Covid-19 while the following morning, it was announced that Callum Hudson-Odi had contracted the virus, sending both squads into isolation.
“Why did we wait until Friday? Why did it take Mikel Arteta to get ill for the game in England to do the right thing? For players, staff and their families it has been a worrying week — one in which you felt a lack of leadership from the government and from the FA and Premier League”, Rooney wrote.
Former England captain Rooney revealed that players at Derby County were “anxious” as they awaited an announcement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week, explaining that their fear was not for themselves but for their families and vulnerable members of society.
“Our worry was not ourselves — we’re strong enough to get over it — but our families, our friends, everyone we come into contact with. We were already thinking twice about carrying on and I know from friends throughout the game that we weren’t alone. I don’t think anyone in football wanted to play.
“After the emergency meeting, at last the right decision was made — 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. I think a lot of footballers were wondering, ‘Is it something to do with money being involved in this?’
“Johnson said: “It’s going to get worse, people will die.” OK, so why not try to get ahead of it? Why wait to be in the position Italy sadly finds itself in?
“I couldn’t believe that the Cheltenham Festival just carried on, for instance: crowds of people crammed in with each other yet they let it go ahead. It wouldn’t surprise me if Boris had a horse running …”
Football’s governing bodies now find themselves in a conundrum as to when to finish the season. UEFA are set to hold a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the future of all European soccer competitions and it is rumoured that the Euros could be postponed until 2021.
Rooney maintained that players will be happy to play until September if the Euros are cancelled and suggested that the next two seasons begin in winter in the lead up to the next World Cup.
“If coronavirus is as bad as the predictions say, then there may come a stage where you have to decide whether to cancel the season completely. From a players’ point of view, if the season has to finish in June, finish in June — the Euros will be cancelled, 100 per cent.
“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. There are different things the game can look at.”