Anti-racism group calls for Di Canio clarity

03 April 2013 11:49

Anti-discrimination group Kick It Out has urged new Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio to state his opposition to racism after he refused to answer questions about whether or not he is a fascist.

The controversial 44-year-old told an Italian news agency that he was "a fascist, but not a racist" in 2005, but he declined invitations to elaborate on his political views during his introductory news conference on Tuesday.

His appointment as the successor to Martin O'Neill prompted the immediate resignation of the club's vice-chairman, former foreign secretary David Miliband, while a local trade union described the move as "a betrayal and a disgrace".

In the light of growing support for far-right political groups across Europe, Kick It Out says the Italian needs to make his position clear.

"It is not part of Kick It Out's remit to sanction the selection of staff of football clubs," the organisation said in a statement.

"However, football clubs have a responsibility to ensure that their employees demonstrate a commitment to anti-discrimination and equality of opportunity.

"It may be in the interest of both the club and Mr Di Canio to acknowledge a full and frank commitment to these policies."

Kick It Out added: "The spectre of the rise of far-right groups in some parts of Europe cannot be allowed to undermine the progress made in the game domestically, and the increasing number of incidents involving both neo-Nazi and Ultra groups which have happened in places like Italy and Greece, must not be replicated here."

Di Canio was angered by the focus on his political opinions during his press conference on Tuesday, describing the furore as "ridiculous and pathetic".

"We are in a football club and not in the House of Parliament," he said. "I'm not a political person, I will talk about only football."

Di Canio pointed to his friendship with former Charlton Athletic team-mate Chris Powell, who is black, as proof that he was not a racist, but the one-time England international was reluctant to comment on the matter.

Powell, now Charlton manager, was asked about Di Canio's political views after his side's game with Brighton and Hove Albion in the Championship on Tuesday, but he would only say: "You will have to ask him."

He added: "Paolo was part of my club career, being a team-mate of mine and I met him socially. It's remarkable it (Di Canio's political views) didn't come out when he was manager of Swindon. It's a bold gamble, football-wise."

Source: AFP