Government coronavirus response treats players like "guinea pigs" says Rooney

Wayne Rooney has claimed footballers in England have been treated as “guinea pigs” in a scathing attack on the handling of the coronavirus.

The former England captain slammed Boris Johnson , the Premier League and FA for a “lack of leadership” during the crisis.

And the Derby County player-coach said more careful thought had to be given to restarting matches because he feared passing on COVID-19 to his young family.

“For me, that can only happen once, for players, fans and everyone else, it is absolutely safe,” Rooney said.

“The powers have to get that one right. 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. I would never forgive the authorities.

“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.

"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.”

Writing in his Sunday Times column , the England and Manchester United record goalscorer vented his fury over Prime Minister Johnson's failure to take strong action last Thursday. 

“You just thought: 'He's dodged it, he's left the FA and Premier League (because the EFL will follow the Premier League) to make the decision.' When the FA and Premier League then didn't make a decision either, it didn't surprise me.

“It felt baffling that with the three Leicester players having symptoms we were still planning to go ahead with games. Then on Thursday night it came out that Arteta had the virus and all of a sudden the Premier League announced an emergency meeting the next morning.

"What was the difference? Is it that Arteta was a bigger name? It felt typical of the way things are done in football. That Leicester aren't a big enough team to cause any chaos, it's fine, we carry on. Then as soon as one of the bigger clubs — Arsenal — are affected, we finally make a decision.”

Rooney said he had been reluctantly ready to play for Derby at Millwall on Saturday until all Premier and Football League fixtures were postponed on Friday.

“When I drove into training on Friday morning with my gear in the back, ready to travel to London, I was thinking, 'I don't want to travel, I don't want to play, I don't want to put my family at risk or for fans to beat risk',” he admitted.

“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.

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