French rethink on fences

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The fences could be coming down in time for next summer's World Cup finals after all as Fifa lobbies the new French Government.

The ormer Premier Alain Juppe's administration had resisted all attempts by the world game's governing body to have the iron grilles surrounding most French stadia dismantled.

Ten-foot high bars between the all-seated crowd and the playing surface at Montpellier's Stade de la Mosson, where England played France on Saturday, revealed the ugly face of crowd management.

Fifa's general secretary Sepp Blatter has fiercely lobbied for change after visiting the World Cup venue grounds in Montpellier and also in St Etienne, Lens and Nantes. With the previous government set firm in their resolve not to back down, Fifa had accepted that the fences would be staying up.

But now, however, the newly-elected government of Lionel Jospin is understood to be reconsidering the issue with the World Cup organising committee head, Fernand Sastre, looking to use his political influence to bring about a new policy.

Fifa's spokesman Keith Cooper said: "We want the fences to go and we hope that the change of government will bring a reappraisal of the situation. Sepp Blatter has made clear our position all along. We've spoken with the mayor of Montpellier and he understands that there is a good chance of the Government changing its policy."