UEFA is to introduce a new-look playoff system for its 2022 World Cup qualifying competition which will avoid the need to compare results of teams in different groups.
UEFA said the 55 teams, who will be battling for 13 places at the tournament in Qatar, will be divided into 10 groups.
The 10 group winners will qualify directly for the World Cup while the runners-up will go into the playoffs along with two more teams from the 2020-21 Nations League.
Those 12 teams will then be divided into three paths, with a one-leg semi-final and a one-leg final in each path to decide the remaining three European finalists.
In the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup, there were nine groups where the winners qualified directly and the eight best runners-up went into four two-leg playoffs.
Meanwhile, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin criticised the way VAR technology had changed the character of football matches, adding that the sport needs uncertainty.
Ceferin said that UEFA would propose football’s rulemaking IFAB make changes to the way the VAR system, officially introduced in 2018, was being implemented, though he did not want to give more details.
The use of VAR, where match officials use video replays to check decisions by the referee on the pitch and flag possible mistakes, has been surrounded by controversy over the last few months.
Critics say the system goes far beyond its original remit and that decisions are taking too long.
“The game is changing and we are afraid that it is changing too much,” Ceferin told reporters following a UEFA executive committee meeting, adding that the search for refereeing perfection was futile.
“Football needs uncertainty because the players make mistakes and the referees on the pitch have to take responsibility, not some people hidden in a van or a building 500 kilometres from the venue,” he said.
“I can live with the fact that referees are human beings who make mistakes but now when technology makes a mistake, that is a problem,” he said.
Ceferin said he was not against VAR in principle but said that “we have to make it clearer, we have to make it faster, we have to make it less invasive — but it will stay.”
One of the biggest sources of controversy has involved offside decisions where VAR officials use gridlines superimposed on the screen, leading to goals being disallowed because a player’s toe or armpit was offside.
“The line is very thin and it’s drawn by the VAR so it’s the subjective line of an objective fact which is a bit strange,” said Ceferin.
Other sources of confusion include the new handball rule and how far back in a move VAR officials should go when checking for infringements.
“Do we check five minutes, do we check 15 minutes?” he said. “The referee never said in the past that we had to go back to a foul seven minutes ago.”
“We still don’t know which handball is handball, who is drawing the lines, how thick the lines are…..there are many questions ahead.”