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Wenger says offside calls could be automated by next year

Paris, France: Offside calls could be “automated by 2022”, when the World Cup will be held in Qatar, Arsene Wenger, director of the development of the world soccer at the FIFA, said Tuesday.

The former Arsenal manager also said he understood the opposition of many in football to his recommendation, which FIFA has embraced, to stage the World Cup every two years.

Speaking to the press in Paris on Tuesday, Wenger said he could not give details of how the technology would work.

“There is a strong chance that the offside will be automated in 2022,” Wenger said. “I’m bound to secrecy, but it will be the next big development in refereeing.”

Close offside calls are currently decided by video-assisted refereeing (VAR), but FIFA has been working to delope “advanced offside technology”.

The governing body of world football said in August that “the goal is to develop a supportive tool similar to goal-line technology: Not designed to make the decision, but to provide evidence instantly to the referees”.

Wenger, talking ahead of the French multisport Refereeing Days, of which he is the figurehead, suggested that the timetable could be accelerated in the run-up to the World Cup in Qatar, which starts on November 21 2022. 

Wenger has already suggested changing the offside rule so that players are onside if any part of their body that can score a goal is behind or level with the relevant defender.

His proposal last month that the World Cup should be staged twice as often was met with a storm of opposition from leading football figures.

He said that he understood the reluctance to change “because there is an emotional aspect” but, he added, the plan was part of a wider reform.

“The reform I am proposing is part of a reform of the calendar. I want to reduce the number of qualifying matches,” Wenger said.  

“We could have a big competition every year,” he said, with the World Cup alternating with continental tournaments like the Euro or the Copa America, “with 25 days of rest guaranteed afterwards” for players. 

“If prestige is linked to the gap between the competitions, it would be necessary to organise the World Cup every eight years,” he added.

FIFA plans to publish a report in November, before a “global summit” by the end of the year.

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