SUNDERLAND leaders have expressed concern about the political views of the new Black Cats manager.
Paolo Di Canio’s colourful past has already led to South Shields David Miliband resigning as vice-chairman of the club after initially confirming he would stay on following his announcement he was standing down from politics.
Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council and Labour member, said: “He (Di Canio) claims he has been misrepresented and we are waiting to see what the club has to say about it.
“Sunderland AFC is a private business and we wouldn’t be dictating to them about their morals and ethics, but we would expect them to hold them high if they want to continue working with us.
“This is an unprecedented situation. I have even had international press on the phone to me.
“We have just given a significant grant to the Wear anti-fascist league, which puts into context where the city council stands. The people of the city would expect us to take a moral stance on things.”
Sunderland Tory leader Coun Robert Oliver backed Mr Miliband’s resignation, saying: “My main concern is that the football club is such a big thing in the city and so closely linked to other institutions in the city.
“Someone who says something in the past then says I regret it and wipes the slate clean, you give them a second chance, but he is quite honest in his views.”
Coun Colin Wakefield, leader of the Independent party in Sunderland, said he didn’t think Di Canio had ever denied being a fascist and this is a cause for concern.
He said: “If it is true, then it is not something we really need to add to the woes we already have. The potential for football violence is worrying enough to start with, without adding this into the mix. I would hate to see politics invading into football.”
Paul Callaghan, chairman of The Leighton Group, University of Sunderland board of governors and Red House Academy, tweeted: “Darkest day in Sunderland’s history. Absolutely appalled by the appointment of a self-confessed Fascist.”
Martyn McFadden, editor of Sunderland fanzine A Love Supreme, said: “People are split between whether he will be a good manager. Swindon is not Sunderland, it is a smaller club, I would rather have had someone with a bit more experience.”
On the fascism issue, he said fans are divided, with many saying his personal views are nothing to do with the job, and others being upset by them, including a pensioner who fought in the war and says he will no longer support the club.
Gary Duncan, of Sunderland anti-fascist coalition, said: “We are angered by the decision of Ellis Short to appoint a fascist as a manager of our great football club. It is incredible that we have a fascist in such an important role in a working-class city like Sunderland.
“We are calling on the board of directors at Sunderland Football Club to tear up Di Canio’s contract and seek a non-fascist alternative. There should be no place for fascism in football, in politics or in a wider society.”