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Onsdag d. 4. september 2002

Former world champion France and the country's journalists are on a collision course after French soccer officials said they wanted to keep the media and the players apart.

Three months after France flopped in its defense of the World Cup, failing to score a single goal as it crashed out in the first round, team officials decided this week that journalists should never again be allowed to stay in the same hotel as the players.

In Seoul, the World Cup team was lodged in a private wing of a luxury hotel but journalists were in the same hotel and reports filtered through of players making trips to the bar or the casio late at night.

"This hotel was ideal for the French team. My only mistake was to have accepted journalists too," said Henri Emile, the French team official in charge of accommodation arrangements.

Emile said on Thursday that reports of the French players' nocturnal activities had given "a negative image" of the team.

"Everyone has the right to a private life," he added.

The problem arose again in France's trip to Tunis last week when journalists were placed in the same hotel as the team, forcing French officials to draw up a new set of rules, Emile said.

From now on, in a system already used at the World Cup finals, players will be taken to meet journalists.

But the French Sports Journalists' Union (USJSF) said the measures could increase tensions.

"This measure will not resolve the problems in the relationship between the French team and the press," said a statement.

"You cannot try to make the French people believe that the journalists had any responsibility at all for the failure at the World Cup."

The union blamed the series of deals between television stations and the team for the situation at the World Cup.

"The unacceptable situation created by these various exclusive deals unfortunately led many media organizations ... to try to get closer to the team in order to carry out their job."

The union will meet French Football Federation President Claude Simonet.