Former Rovers midfielder Robbie Savage quizzed the health secretary and chief medical officer about the reasons for restricting the coaching of Under-18s football while other sports have been given the green light to return.

Savage raised the issue, stressing the importance of football and exercise for people’s mental wellbeing, during the Downing Street press conference, hosted by health secretary Matt Hancock.

The Welshman, who spent three seasons at Ewood Park between 2005 and 2008, was told that mixing households, in a contact sport such as football, was a risk to the rate of infection spreading, but the more people observed social distancing, the quicker the measures would be released.

The pundit asked: “It is mental health awareness week and we know how important all sport is as a contributor to achieving healthy minds and bodies.

“Why, therefore, is it in published guidelines by governing bodies that junior tennis players, golfers and athletes are able to receive one-one-one coaching sessions – but young people who play the working class game of football are currently not allowed to?”

Matt Hancock replied: “Thanks Robbie for your question and it’s great to have you as part of the press conference.

“I absolutely get the impact of this virus on people's lives, and the mental health impact, and for many people being able to play football is a huge release and a positive thing.

“The rules are there about exercise, although being out there on your own and with members of your own household is nothing like being able to play football.

“So I get it and I understand why it's a problem. Unfortunately, these rules have to be in place among the population as a whole because we've got a grip of this virus.

“It's only by more people following the rules, the faster we'll get there and we'll be able to release social distancing.”

Since hanging up his boots, Savage has been a regular on television and radio, and the 45-year-old, who has two sons, is also a coach, and advocate of the grassroots game.

He said: “I fully understand the reason for the question and, to absolutely reinforce your point, exercise of all sorts is good for our physical and mental health. That’s one of the reasons were very keen to make it easier to do things outdoors, and kicking around a football with members of your own household is fine.

“The difference, and we need to think about a balance, it’s trying to release where we can, but not get to a point where we get the transmission again.

“We were very confident that it is much safer to do things outdoors, than indoors. The rules are, except within your own household, it’s one-on-one and from two metres. That’s a small increment.

“It’s possible to play those other sports outside of 2m and with one other person. Clearly, to have a league football game, which is a contact sport, and involves a larger number, the risk is greater.

“So the question is at what stage, accepting that outdoors is safer than indoors, that a group of 22 people, many of them coming in to contact with one another, linking their households, is a much bigger risk than two people at 2m. At what stage do we think the risk is low enough for that to be a safe thing to do?

“That is the logic for this gradual move, but we’re very keen to make it possible for people to do sport and exercise outside for all the reasons you give, but also not in the process of that to link households again and make the R go up again.”

Asked if he thought it would require a vaccine before junior football would be allowed to return, Hancock said: “I very much hope that we won't have to wait for a vaccine.”