The Di Canio appointment caused a major political storm

Paulo Di Canio: I am not a fascist

Paulo Di Canio: I am not a fascist

The new manager of Sunderland has finally denied being a fascist, as the club tries to limit the political damage from his appointment.

Paulo Di Canio spent most of a press conference yesterday refusing to confirm or deny whether he held fascist views but as the row continued he put out a statement today distancing himself from far-right ideology.

"I have clearly stated that I do not wish to speak about matters other than football, however, I have been deeply hurt by the attacks on the football club.

"This is a historic, proud and ethical club and to read and hear some of the vicious and personal accusations is painful. I am an honest man, my values and principles come from my family and my upbringing.

"I feel that I should not have to continually justify myself to people who do not understand this, however I will say one thing only – I am not the man that some people like to portray.

"I am not political, I do not affiliate myself to any organisation, I am not a racist and I do not support the ideology of fascism. I respect everyone.

"I am a football man and this and my family are my focus.  Now I will speak only of football."

The statement may bring to an end a row which saw former foreign secretary David Miliband quit the club's board and the Durham Miners' Association demand the return of the Wearmouth Miners' Banner, which is on permanent display at the Stadium of Light.

Di Canio's comments come after an open letter from the Dean of Durham, who weighed into the row over the former Lazio player's politics yesterday.

"You were asked where you stood on fascism, but declined to give an unambiguous response," Michael Sadgrove, dean of neighbouring Durham, wrote in an open letter yesterday.

"One sentence is all that it would have taken.  I'm genuinely perplexed as to why you didn't take the opportunity that was handed to you.

"Premier League players and managers are big role-models for the young.  Is fascism what you or Sunderland FC want our children and teenagers to admire and emulate?  And if this doesn’t trouble you personally, should it not trouble those who appointed you?"

The Italian manager was once pictured giving what appears to be a Nazi salute to crowds at a football match and wears a tattoo reading DUX, in a tribute to Mussolini, who he considers a misunderstood figure.