Wayne Rooney rips Premier League’s coronavirus response, says players were ‘guinea pigs’

Wayne Rooney ripped the Premier League’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in a column that ran Sunday in British newspaper The Times. The Premier League ultimately decided to suspend its season after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea player Callum Hudson-Odoi both tested positive for COVID-19. The league had initially said it would play this weekend’s games “as normal” in a statement released shortly before Arteta’s diagnosis was announced.

Rooney, a former Manchester United star and current Derby County player-coach, called out the league, the Football Association and the government for treating players like “guinea pigs.” You can read his full column here.

The 34-year-old Rooney wrote:  

“Football’s a game we all love, we all watch, we all play but when something like coronavirus happens — when it’s a world crisis — you have to make decisions,” 

“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.”

The Premier League made its decision to suspend play until at least early April on Friday following an emergency meeting. Games were planned to be played with fans in the stands as of Thursday night, when the league saying it was advised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that play could continue.

“But 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.

“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. It felt like we were trying to limp along, keep football going, instead of getting everyone prepared for what’s going to come.”

The Premier League joined nearly every other major soccer league across the globe in suspending play. 

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