Wayne Rooney has expressed his disappointment at the government and the football authorities for treating footballers as ‘guinea pigs’ during the coronavirus pandemic.
All games in England’s Premier League, English Football League, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship have been postponed until April 3 because of COVID-19.
Only last Thursday the government gave the all-clear for sporting events to continue, but Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta’s admission that he had tested positive led to the Premier League announcing a day later that all games would be suspended until the start of next month.
And writing in his new column for The Times, former Manchester United and England captain Rooney expressed his dismay at the time it took for the relevant personnel to make the decision to halt proceedings in English football.
The Derby skipper wrote: “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.
“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.”
Rooney also stated he would ‘never forgive’ the aforementioned parties if his family fell ill as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak – which has already claimed 6,000 lives worldwide.
“I know how I feel. If any of my family get infected through me because I’ve had to play when it’s not safe, and they get seriously ill, I’d have to think hard about ever playing again,” he admitted.
“I would never forgive the authorities.”
Ahead of a reported blanket ban on big public gatherings next week, football’s message continues to be confused, with many matches at non-league level going ahead as scheduled this weekend.
Rooney said that in effectively forcing the respective leagues to make their own decision, prime minister Boris Johnson had ‘dodged’ the issue.
He added that he believed money was key to the authorities’ initial reluctance to cancel.
“The rest of sport – tennis, Formula One, rugby, golf, football in other countries – was closing down and we were being told to carry on,” added Rooney.
“I think a lot of footballers were wondering, ‘Is it something to do with money being involved in this?’”
Meanwhile, Darlington’s chief executive officer David Johnston fears a prolonged shut-down of football as a result of the coronavirus outbreak could plunge many clubs into financial difficulties.
The Quakers’ National League North clash with Farsley Celtic went ahead as planned on Saturday, despite much of the football in England being cancelled.
He said: “If you look outside the Premier League, the Championship clubs and all the way down, look at the accounts of any club, it’s tight. It’s always tight for every club.
“Particularly at our level, cash is king. We set budgets at the start of the year and it’s based on projected revenue.
“We have got players on contracts so these are very interesting times.
“Fortunately, our FA Cup run this year gave us some insulation against that, but it’s how long does it go on for? Our players are normally contracted for 41 weeks, under contract to the end of April.
“We’ve got cash reserves that can see us through, but if it continues for months and months and months up to Christmas, then it’s going to be tight.”
Saturday’s game, which finished 4-2 to Farsley Celtic, survived after talks between the clubs late on Friday evening, but Johnston is not convinced there will be many more in the immediate future.
He added: “The most important thing is public health. That’s paramount and whilst the Government – they’ve got the scientists there – is managing this pandemic and we’ll follow their advice until their advice changes.
“Had we had any concerns with our people here – we talked about how we could mitigate the risk for our volunteers, for our turnstile people, for our staff and also for both teams.
“We had long conversations with Farsley’s board and we decided to play the game. There are a number of games going ahead in the league, but I do think that this might be the last for some time.”