PITMEN have demanded back their banner in protest of Paolo Di Canio’s appointment at Sunderland AFC.
Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) has called for the Monkwearmouth Miners’ Banner to be taken down from the reception of the Stadium of Light and handed over to its members, as it makes a stand against the Italian’s fascist support.
The request has been made by Dave Hopper, general secretary of the DMA, who was a worker at the colliery for 27 years and the National Union of Mineworkers’ branch secretary at the pit.
He labelled the club’s decision to appoint Di Canio as an “outrage and a betrayal of all those who fought and died fighting fascism.
He added: ”I like many thousands of miners have supported Sunderland from infancy and are passionate about football.
“But there are principles which are much more important.
“Our banner represents the Durham miners’ long struggle for the rights of the working class, rights which were annihilated by fascism in Germany, Italy, Spain and Chile.
“We have a sacred obligation to the millions who were wiped out by Hitler, Mussolini and Franco to oppose fascism wherever and in whatever context this evil creed raises its head, particularly at a time when working people are again being forced to pay for capitalism’s crisis as they were in Europe in the 1920s and 30s.
“The appointment of Di Canio is a disgrace and a betrayal of all who fought and died in the fight against fascism.
“Everyone must speak out an oppose this outrage and call on Ellis Short and the Sunderland Board to reverse their decision.”
Mr Hopper said a letter setting out the union’s views and its call for the banner to be returned to the union was sent to the club via post and fax yesterday, and was yet to receive any response.
He added: “It’s a sad state of affairs, we’ve had a long association with the club, but it’s now stressed to the limit.
“Bob Murray got that big miner’s lamp outside the ground in recognition of the fact it was a colliery and we’ve always had a good relationship with the club, leading to the presentation of the banner in 1997.
“The manager’s political persuasion is something we want to be disassociated from.”
The banner features the phrase “Come let us reason together.”
Mr Hopper was among those to present the banner to the club for “safe keeping” in December 1997.
Mr Murray, SAFC’S then chairman, said at the time: “This is very important for everyone.
“It is a great honour to be entrusted with the banner.”
A spokesman for the club said: “The club has not had any direct contact from The Durham Miners’ Association as yet, but naturally we would welcome the opportunity to talk to them.”