Wayne Rooney has revealed that he would not be surprised if concluding the 2019-20 football campaign took until the end of the year, cutting significantly into next season's projected calendar.
The former England captain, who returned to English football in January with Championship outfit Derby County, stressed that it was vital the sporting world did not try to buck the trend and force a return to action before it is deemed safe amid the spread of Covid-19.
Virtually all sport around the globe has been brought to a standstill amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the few remaining leagues expected to shut up shop in the coming days as well.
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The decision has left many leagues in limbo, including all major domestic and continental competitions in Europe, with this year's Euro 2020 tournament already pushed back to next summer.
Despite this, several sides are continuing to train as a group, against official advice that encourages social distancing and self-isolation as nations look to contain the spread of the disease, which has over 300,000 confirmed cases so far with over 13,000 fatalities.
Writing in his weekly column in The Times , former Manchester United and Everton forward Rooney has stressed that the current campaign - with Liverpool poised for a first top-flight title in three decades and Leeds United and West Brom on course for promotion to the Premier League - must be allowed to conclude, even if it means pushing back the 2020-21 season.
"The world is facing something serious and we in football should not be different from the rest of the population," he wrote.
"Football is what everybody — especially in Britain — wakes up thinking about, but it has to take a back seat. This crisis is so much bigger than our game.
"The one thing missing from all the announcements last week was the FA ruling that every club should keep their players at home and not put anyone at risk, instead of leaving it to individual clubs to decide. I’d like to have seen that.
"But otherwise we now know where we’re going. The FA helped to clarify that the league season will finish and that is fair.
"Liverpool will win the Premier League. [They] have been fantastic. They have put so much work in. They deserve this title. Can you imagine waiting 30 years and then having it taken away like this? The right decision has been made.
"It’s also right in terms of promotion and relegation and Champions League places. These issues are so big for the clubs involved that I imagine there would be a lot of legal fights if the season was just abandoned. The fair thing is to finish 2019-20 — even if we have to lose next season in the process.
"It wouldn’t surprise me if finishing the season takes until the end of 2020. Football, like every other industry, is in unknown territory and, just like every other industry, has to listen to the advice and take all necessary precautions. For me, that rules out finishing the season behind closed doors.
"When you play behind closed doors it still means bringing together a fairly large group of people. You need ambulances, doctors, paramedics. They’re mandatory. Police may be needed too. Why bring them all to a football match when in this crisis they will be needed elsewhere for things that are far more important?
"I wouldn’t be comfortable playing a game knowing there were people dying or very sick because of coronavirus and we’re taking those workers away from the front line."