'Players treated like guinea pigs' - Wayne Rooney blasts football authorities for slow response to coronavirus outbreak

Wayne Rooney has hit out at English football’s governing bodies over the treatment of players in the build-up to the weekend’s shutdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Sunday, 15th March 2020, 12:03 pm

The government stated on Thursday that mass gatherings including sporting events could go ahead as scheduled and the Premier League and EFL went along with that advice.

However, there was a forced backtrack on Friday morning after it was revealed that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi had contracted the virus.

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Sheffield Wednesday captain Tom Lees and Derby County skipper Wayne Rooney before the recent Championship match at Hillsborough. Picture: Steve Ellis

After emergency meetings it was decided to postpone fixturs until at least April 4 but Rooney, who brought his Derby County side to Hillsborough to face Sheffield Wednesday two weeks ago, said few were paying attention to the health of the players and that they ‘were being treated like guinea pigs’.

"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?” said the former England striker in a column in The Times.

"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.

"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."

Rooney added: "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?'"