Wayne Rooney has criticised the time it took for football authorities to postpone matches due to the coronavirus pandemic, but says they made “the right call in the end”.
The Premier League and EFL postponed all fixtures until April 4 and 3 respectively at the earliest due to the threat of the coronavirus while the FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship fixtures have also been postponed.
Those decisions came at an “emergency club meeting” on Friday after Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta and Chelsea midfielder Callum Hudson-Odoi had already confirmed they tested positive for coronavirus.
Writing in The Times, Rooney admits he and his Derby team-mates were “anxious” while waiting for updates at the training ground.
The former England striker also proposed a radical schedule shake-up which could see the current season being concluded in the summer, and the next two kicking off in winter-time as a result.
“After the emergency meeting, at last the right decision was made,” Rooney said. “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.”