Di Canio triggers another Miliband resignation

By politics.co.uk staff

David Miliband has resigned from the board of Sunderland Athletic Football Club after it appointed self-confessed "fascist" Paolo Di Canio as their new head coach.

The former foreign secretary and South Shields MP, who announced he would resign as an MP last Wednesday, has now quit his post, breaking another big link with the ex-politician's roots in the north-east.

He is leaving the country to head the International Rescue Committee charity, which assists refugees, in New York.

Last week Sunderland had hoped to retain Miliband on their board, but after parting ways with Martin O'Neill at the weekend have now lost a big-name supporter.

"I wish Sunderland AFC all success in the future," Miliband said in a statement on his website.

"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 prompted outrage in 2005 when he used a fascist-style 'Roman salute' to his SS Lazio fans. He received a fine and a one-game ban but avoided the lifetime ban suggested at the time by Fifa's president Sepp Blatter.

Eight years later, 44-year-old Di Canio is moving to Sunderland after beginning his managing career in UK football at Swindon Town.

Club chairman Ellis Short said Di Canio was "passionate, driven and raring to get started".

"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."

Di Canio had sought to explain away his actions by insisting he was merely "a fascist, not a racist".

He told the Ansa news agency in 2005: "The salute is aimed at my people. With the straight arm I don't want to incite violence and certainly not racial hatred."