Staging football matches without spectators must only be a short-term fix during the COVID-19 pandemic as the prolonged absence of fans could damage the game, former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says.

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has claimed that offside calls could be automated at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with further advances in technology planned amid ongoing criticism of VAR.

A highly-respected ex-Gunners boss is currently filling a role as chief of global football development for FIFA.

With a prominent position within the games’ governing body being held, the Frenchman is well placed to pass comment on the changes being lined up that are intended to make life easier for match officials and eradicate mistakes caused by human error.

Wernger has told FIFA’s Living Football show: “The automated offside I think will be ready for 2022. Automated means it goes directly from the signal to the linesman and the linesman has on his watch a red light that tells him offside or not offside.

“At the moment we have situations where the players are on lines to see if they are offside or not. On average, the time we have to wait is around 70 seconds, sometimes one minute 20 seconds, sometimes a little bit longer when the situation is very difficult to appreciate.

“It is so important because we see many celebrations are cancelled after that for marginal situations and that’s why I believe it is a very important step.

“The semi-automated goes first to the VAR, who signals it to the linesman. I’m pushing very hard to have the automated offsides, which means straight away the signal goes to the linesman.”

The semi-automated system was trialled by FIFA at the 2019 Club World Cup and positive progress has been made since then.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB), which oversees and governs football’s rulebook, has said that it will continue to review the offside law and the technology that is being put in place to make decisions easier to come by.

Wenger added: “FIFA and IFAB have always maintained that the final decision will remain with the referee, with technology being introduced to provide the officials with the best support available.”

FIFA has already introduced Video Assistant Referees to football at the highest level across Europe, with leading domestic divisions and major international tournaments now using VAR.

That system has not been universally well received, with many big calls still being questioned while controversy is never far away when it comes to offside decisions that can be determined by a matter of millimetres.

The use of pitch-side monitors has also faced criticism, with inconsistency from officials still existing, while plenty are calling for the speed of VAR rulings to be increased as games can become disjointed after lengthy delays in play.

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