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.

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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.

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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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  • Comment number 203.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Are we returning to McCarthyism, We live in a free country and people should be able to choose their politics and not be hounded for it.
    If he said he was a Communist would it have had the same effect.

    I voted for the monster raving loony party once and I would again if they put a candidate up.
    Its a game called football no different from Tiddlywinks, its just hyped up more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Seems this country is headed in the wrong direction. Not only do too many on here seem to think Di Canio's appointment is ok, they seem to share his fascist views. This country has fought fascism already in the last 100 years, and will defeat it again. The Sunderland board are a disgrace, and should resign en masse. I hope the Sunderland fans give him a hostile reception

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    At least Di Canio is honest with himself and others about his views. Unlike many on the left who seem to want to silence anyone they find offensive (who disagrees with them). The left has also reduced fascism to racism, which is far too simplistic. That way they don't have to examine aspects of their own mindsets which come perilously close to fascism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    I thought free speech and free political thought was an important part of our democracy? Or are some people on here trying to say that communists are good authoritarians and fascists are bad ones? Try telling that to the millions who perished under Stalin and Mao Tse-tung.


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