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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Automated offside reviews for Qatar 2022 ‘next big development in refereeing’: Wenger

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While technology helps referees in making decisions on the pitch, it has been blamed for drastic incidents deemed by many to be mishaps.

Offside reviews are likely to be automated for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, according to a top FIFA official.

There is a strong chance that offside will be automated in 2022,” former Arsenal manager and current FIFA Director of Global Development, Arsene Wenger said on Tuesday.

“I’m bound to secrecy, but it will be the next big development in refereeing.

“There is an issue because it requires a lot of people, and it is still expensive. VAR is a useful aid, and it must remain to make more fair decisions,” he added.

The comments may come as a welcome move to fans around the world who have touted goal-line and Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) technology since they were first introduced in 2014 and 2018 respectively.

Daniel Podence ruled marginally offside image via Sky Sports

While the technology helps referees in making decisions on the pitch, it has been blamed for drastic incidents deemed by many to be mishaps.

Among the incidents were Raheem Sterling’s armpit offside and Michael Keane’s accidental foul, both of which sparked major debate on social media platforms. 

Criticism of VAR has focused on three main areas, including handballs, offsides, and speed of decisions. 

With regards to handballs, discussions have ultimately criticised the subjective nature of the laws of the game. 

The International Football Association Board changed the rules of handball to recognise intentionality by requiring the need for “deliberate touching of the ball” and making “the body unnaturally bigger”. 

However, these laws still appeared to be divisive in Joel Ward’s and Eric Dier’s handball decisions against Everton and Newcastle respectively. 

Perhaps the main criticism of VAR is how arms and hands, both of which cannot be used to score goals, are still part of the offside calculation. 

This was the case for Leeds United’s Patrick Bamford, Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus, Wolves’ Daniel Podence, and Liverpool’s Robert Firminio – all of whom were deemed offside with the tiniest of margins, a term now dubbed as “armpit offside”. 

However, new laws implemented by the English Footballing Association this year have appeared to favour the attacking side in a bid to make the game flow faster. 

Referees are encouraged to let the play continue and rely less on their video assistants. For Wenger, the next step to improve the statement would be to shorten VAR checks.

While VAR has fundamentally changed the natural flow of goal celebrations and match altercations, Wenger argues that its accuracy in getting decisions right from 93 percent to 97 percent of the time could justify its existence.


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