Di Canio: David Miliband quits Sunderland role

Paolo Di Canio in 2005 Paolo Di Canio was fined and received a one-match ban in Italy for making this salute in 2005

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Ex-foreign secretary David Miliband has resigned from the board of Sunderland football club over new head coach Paolo Di Canio's "past political statements".

Mr Di Canio has previously described himself as "a fascist, not a racist".

Mr Miliband had been serving as the club's vice-chairman and as a non-executive director.

He said he wished the club "all success in the future. It is a great institution that does a huge amount for the North East".

Start Quote

"Paolo had many strong views... but I doubt it's relevant to keeping Sunderland in the Premiership.”

End Quote Jeremy Wray Former Swindon Town chairman

BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said Mr Miliband's decision to stand down was entirely to do with Mr Di Canio's appointment and nothing to do with his forthcoming move to New York to work for a charity.

Mr Di Canio - who has praised former fascist dictator Mussolini as "a very principled ethical individual" who was "deeply misunderstood" - was pictured in 2005 making a raised-arm salute to a group of supporters of Italian club Lazio, where he was playing.

He was given a one-match ban and fined £7,000 for the incident, and was also banned for a match following a similar incident earlier in 2005.

In 2011, when Mr Di Canio was appointed as Swindon Town's manager, the GMB union withdrew its sponsorship of the club, citing his political views.

Mr Miliband joined the Sunderland board in February 2011 after retiring from frontline politics in the aftermath of losing the Labour leadership race to his brother Ed.

He said last week he was quitting as Labour MP for South Shields to take up a role with the International Rescue Committee in New York.

Start Quote

If he wants to be a manager and wants to be a public figure, he needs to make it clear he accepts these views are completely inappropriate”

End Quote Weyman Bennett, Unite Against Fascism

Former Swindon Town chairman Jeremy Wray, who gave Mr Di Canio his first managerial job, described Mr Miliband's resignation as a "kneejerk response".

"I doubt if David Miliband has ever met Paolo Di Canio. I have known him for two years and I don't think politics was discussed once," he said.

"Paolo had many strong views. He probably had views on whether Italy should be in the euro, gay marriage and the endangered Siberian tiger but I doubt it's relevant to keeping Sunderland in the Premiership."

Campaign group Unite Against Fascism said it was "not surprised" by Mr Miliband's decision and called on Mr Di Canio to retract comments on his political views.

"If he wants to be a manager and wants to be a public figure, he needs to make it clear he accepts these views are completely inappropriate," joint national secretary Weyman Bennett said.

It was "simply not true that you can say you agree with fascism and that's okay - it's something that isn't acceptable", he added.

'Extreme views'

Sunderland City Council deputy leader Henry Trueman, meanwhile, said "extremism is the last thing we need in football" and said he hoped Mr Di Canio "comes as a football manager and keeps his politics to himself".

Sports journalist Gabriele Marcotti has written a biography of Mr Di Canio and suggested the club appointment would always upset some people.

Start Quote

A lot of fans are upset about the connection with these extreme political views”

End Quote Martyn McFadden, A Love Supreme

He told BBC 5 Live: "I've known him very well for the last 15 years. There's no question that he's not a racist.

"His record, his friendships, his relationships pretty much speak for themselves.

"As to why Miliband resigned, he's a politician and I can understand why he's concerned about being associated with certain people - especially the way some people are bound to depict Paolo."

Martyn McFadden, editor of Sunderland football fanzine A Love Supreme, told the BBC there had been "a massive reaction" on the publication's website.

"A lot of fans are upset about the connection with these extreme political views," he said.

"Others are saying, 'let's keep politics out of football and make sure that Sunderland stay in the division'."

Mr Di Canio first came to Britain as a player in 1996 when he joined Celtic, and followed his time in Glasgow with spells at Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham and Charlton.

He retired in 2008 after spells in Italy with Lazio and former Serie C1 side Cisco Roma, and was handed his first managerial role by Swindon in May 2011 before quitting in February after becoming frustrated by off-the-field issues.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    For pity's sake.

    This is FOOTBALL. What does anyone expect?

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    Yes UKIP is fascist. However, Di Canio can hold whatever views he wishes. The fact is that he is woefully unqualified for the job. 1.5 seasons in L1 and L2?? Pathetic! Media hype and arrogant self-promotion have got him this job. Those who think kicking people up the backside is the way to manage are deluding themselves. If it were that simple everyone would do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    So he is not racist because he has black friends? Surely Jefferson wasn't racitst because he slept and had children with his slave Sally H.?

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    I will put it another way .. who is actually bothered about the resignation of a Man who stood for a National Socialist Government (like the one Churchill took on); that went to war on Women and a Children, twice, based on established lies; those crying fascist about Di Canio can't accuse him of that kind of hatred ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.


    Im not trying to class you as a fascist, I'm highlighting that you're inconsistent. That you are subjective and not objective. I'm questioning your judgement being coloured by political dogma.

    Cant you see that?

    You accused me and the party I vote for of defending Fascism, a claim that you have not been able to and will not be able to substantiate.

    Oh and BTW I served as well. 16 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.


    So the whole sum of your argument is that I am defending fascism because I have not called for Paulo Di Canio to be dismissed from his job at Sunderland AFC based on personal political views that he expressed in Rome in 2005?

    Do I understand you correctly?

    And that, by your powers of deduction, that makes every UKIP voter like me a defender of fascism?

    Career tip: Dont ever become a cop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    In the last 12 months we have learned that it is essentially OK to racially abuse a fellow player with only a token slap on the wrist as punishment. Far from rallying round the victim, football rallies round the racist.

    Now a self proclaimed fascist will lead a premier league club.

    It has become patently clear, sadly, that football is a sport which tolerates and accepts racism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    Wow i not allowed to say anything about the Italians prevalence for fascism in football lazier is run by fascist fans they go to the training ground and tell the players what they think some Italian teams have never had black player Italian football culture is macho and like di canio is nasty hope he fails and the sunderland go down and he bancrupts them

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    Don't feel sorry for me Steve, Ever.I served 6 years in the armed forces, I'm an activist and I am a trade unionist. Everything I put on here is down to my own experiences and education.
    That's why when you try to refer to me as a Fascist, I just sit back and grin without giving you the slightest bit of credence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.


    Takeley might be a lot of things, but having a gift for irony is not something I would consider to be a gift of his.


    Yes dear boy*pat on head*you would say that. You've left yourself nowhere else to go. Its already there in your own words, unprompted. "You cannot blame a political creed for the actions of its followers."

    Only a real mug would equate my view with support for fascism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    Editors' Picks
    Comment number 203. Gwynfryn
    12 HOURS AGO
    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

    Anybody else sadly smile and shake their head at the irony of the above? Yep, the BBC moderators (who often seem very immoderate) have banned a comment that the Editor thought worthy of highlighting. So much for the BBC being defenders of free speech!

  • Comment number 597.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    By saying fascism has no place in society you restrict what others are allowed to believe, narrowing them toward your own views. This in way is form of Fascist. Ironic

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    SIXTY MILLIONS dead.. in the Last war started by Fascists. Extermination Camps , Concentration camps Mass murder on a Horrific scale. Millions died to defeat the evil superstiton of Fascism. This man DiCanio and his creed are evil. I hope Sunderland go down. This man shouldnt be in charge of ANYTHIMG in this country. Its like spitting on the graves of those who lost their lives defending freedom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.


    Only a left winger could make that leap.

    You know, I sometimes feel sorry for you lot. Those at the top of your party know exactly what they're doing, but as for the rest of the useful idiots who blindly follow them and defend them against everything, no matter what... this lemming like, unquestioning tribalism n the face of so much contra-indication is akin to a mental illness.

    Very sad.

  • Comment number 593.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    589.Steve_M-H And I am simply reiterating that you are coming out in support of the fascist.Now that's either a rare moment of candour on your part.Or that you are just so consumed by Tribalist Tory/UKIP politics that you're prepared to take the opposite opinion of DM no matter who or what the subject matter is.
    Both are virtues of someone of feigned piety.

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    If England appoint Di Canio will the other Miliband brother quit too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    589. Steve_M-H

    One assumes you are unfamiliar with the concept of irony?

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.


    It figures you wouldnt understand it.Its quite simple. We've already established that you cannot blame a political creed for the crimes committed by those purporting to follow it, correct? You've already said so.

    I am merely repeating the charge that it is impossible for the left to comment on these matters objectively because of their intolerance for any voice other than their own. Thats it


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