David Miliband resigns from Sunderland board after Di Canio is hired
South Shields MP cites 'past political statements' of manager who once claimed to be a 'fascist'
David Miliband last night quit as vice-chairman of Sunderland FC after the Italian Paolo Di Canio, who made Nazi-style salutes on the pitch when a player, was appointed the team's manager.
The former foreign secretary had said he would stay on at the Premier League club after stepping down as South Shields' MP last week to take up a new role as head of the International Rescue Committee, a global-aid organisation based in the United States.
But yesterday, as Di Canio's appointment was announced, Mr Miliband said he was resigning as vice-chairman and non-executive director because of the new manager's "past political statements". In 2005, Di Canio three times extended a Nazi-style salute to his Lazio teammates. He was banned for one game and fined about £7,000 by the Italian football authorities. He defended his actions by saying: "I am a fascist, not a racist."
Lazio was the fascist Italian leader Benito Mussolini's preferred club and, in his memoirs, Di Canio defended Il Duce as "basically a very principled, ethical individual" who was "deeply misunderstood". He has a tattoo that says "Dux" on his bicep, which is a Latinised spelling of "Duce".
Mr Miliband said in a statement: "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."
Mr Miliband joined the Sunderland board in 2011 having retired from frontline politics after losing the Labour leadership race to his brother, Ed.
Di Canio, 44, was signed on a two-and-a-half-year deal yesterday to replace Martin O'Neill, who was sacked in the wake of the Black Cats' 1-0 defeat to Manchester United on Saturday.
He entered football management in 2011, taking charge of Swindon Town, a club he quit in February.
As a player he made more than 500 appearances, scoring more than 100 goals. In Italy he played for Lazio, Juventus, Napoli and AC Milan before making a move to Celtic. He went on to play for Premiership clubs Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham United and Charlton Athletic.
Sunderland owner and chairman Ellis Short said Di Canio was "passionate, driven and raring to get started".
"The sole focus of everyone for the next seven games will be to ensure we gain enough points to maintain our top-flight status," he added. "I think that the chances of that are greatly increased with Paolo joining us.
"Our fans have shown tremendous patience and understanding this season. They have continued to back the team in huge numbers, both home and away, and that is something that continues to inspire all of us in our drive to give them the successful club they deserve. That remains our primary aim."
There was no statement from the club last night on Mr Miliband's resignation from Sunderland.
By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen
New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning
New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain
Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy
- 1 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 2 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 3 Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson criticised for beer tweet
- 4 The bubble bursts for Sodastream
- 5 If you think Russell Brand’s new book is confused, you should read what his critics have to say about it
'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson criticised for beer tweet
The bubble bursts for Sodastream
Russian politician says Apple CEO Tim Cook should be 'banned' from country after coming out as gay
'Santa Claus' dead: John Moore starred in Coca Cola and Morrisons adverts
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...
£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...
£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...
£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...