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Soccer-EFL bans use of towels to dry balls before throw-ins

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(Reuters) – The sight of players meticulously drying the ball before launching it into their opponents’ penalty area is set to become a thing of the past in English football’s lower leagues after clubs voted to ban the use of towels before throw-ins.

In a blow to those who have made the long throw-in their weapon of choice, English Football League (EFL) clubs voted to approve the rule amendment at their annual meeting on Thursday.

The rule will also prevent players from using items of clothing generously offered up by fans, a situation that arose in November, when a Rotherham United supporter gave defender Wes Harding his jumper to wipe the ball before a throw-in.

While not one of football’s finer arts, the long throw can be incredibly effective in the right hands and the rule change could have an impact on League Two newcomers Wrexham, owned by Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

Defender Ben Tozer’s long throw-ins were a constant threat for the Welsh club last season as they won promotion and gained legions of new fans thanks to their popular docu-series “Welcome to Wrexham”.

The EFL will follow the Premier League’s example of multi-ball system to speed up play in its competitions from the 2023-24 season.

“Match balls will be placed on cones in designated areas at pitch side to help increase the time of the ball being in play,” the EFL said.

Clubs also voted to approve regulation changes to toughen its owners’ and directors’ test, which include banning individuals who are subject to sanctions. The league will also prohibit state-owned enterprises from sanctioned countries.

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Hyderabad; Editing by Toby Davis)

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