Fiona and friends mourn the end of a lucrative era

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FIONA WRIGHT, a Daily Sport columnist and better known for a passionate relationship with Sir Ralph Halpern, former chairman of the Burton Group, knew the game was up, writes Martin Whitfield.

In yesterday's issue next to her 'No. 1 Agony Column', she lambasted the 'spoil-sport bureaucrats' set to abolish the explicit sex phone lines: 'You and I have had some great fun talking to each other on the lines recently. So have all the girls. This could be your last chance to listen to what could be the sexiest, hardest lines available. Dial now before they are banned.'

Lists of the most popular lines are then displayed with such basic titles as 'Relief with No Delay' and 'Jack Off in a Jiffy'.

For Fiona and friends, the decision to restrict access and advertising of sex-line services, could be more damaging than ending their fun relationship with masturbatory males. Income from sex-line advertisements is a big revenue earner for the weekday and Sunday Sport titles and, to a lesser extent, for the Daily Star. The Sport titles, owned by David Sullivan, the soft pornography publisher, have a weekday circulation of about 250,000 and a Sunday sale of 375,000.

All but four of yesterday's 32 pages in the Daily Sport carried some form of sex-service advertising, mostly for hundreds of 0898 sex lines. The Daily Star carried two columns of adverts.

Most of the Daily Sport adverts emphasise their 'no intro' feature, a reference to criticism that customers had to listen to long introductions at up to 48p a minute before receiving their message.

Executives of the newspapers were reluctant to comment last night.