SUNDERLAND AFC Vice-Chairman David Miliband has quit the club in protest over the extremist views of new manager Paolo Di Canio.
The former South Shields MP, who stepped down from politics last week, said he though it right to resign from the club in light of Di Canio’s political views.
Di Canio is a self-proclaimed fascist and has been photographed several times giving the controversial ‘Roman salute’ to Lazio supporters.
The new manager has expressed admiration for former Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, and in his autobiography, praised him as “basically a very principled, ethical individual” who was “deeply misunderstood”.
Mr Miliband said in a statement last night: “I wish Sunderland AFC all success in the future.
“It is a great institution that does a huge amount for the North East and I wish the team very well over the next vital seven games.
“However, in the light of the new manager’s past political statements, I think it right to step down.”
Di Canio has joined Sunderland on a two-and-a-half year deal after Martin O’Neill was sacked on Saturday.
The former West Ham striker told Italian news agency ANSA in 2005: “I am a fascist, not a racist.”
He has also courted controversy most recently following his acrimonious departure as manager of League One club Swindon in February.
Di Canio made more than 500 league appearances and scored more than 100 league goals as a player.
In Italy he played for Lazio, Juventus, Napoli and Milan, before moving to Celtic and then to Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham and Charlton.
His playing career contained several controversial incidents including his push on referee Paul Alcock in 1998, for which he received an 11-match ban, and his self-proclaimed allegiance to fascism.
He was also SPFA Players’ Player of the Year in 1997, West Ham United player of the season and a winner of the BBC’s Goal of the Season in 2000 and of a FIFA Fair Play Award in 2001. He returned to Italy, where he played for Lazio, Ternana and Cisco Roma before retiring in 2008.
He entered management in 2011 in England with Swindon, guiding them to promotion to Football League One before leaving in February.
On the day of his appointment as manager of Swindon, the GMB union terminated their financial backing of about £4,000 a season of the club because of Di Canio’s views.