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Durham Dean welcomes Di Canio's rejection of fascism

05 April 2013


Reaching out: Paolo Di Canio makes a gesture to Lazio fans after a match against Roma in January 2005

Reaching out: Paolo Di Canio makes a gesture to Lazio fans after a match against Roma in January 2005

THE Dean of Durham, the Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, has welcomed a statement issued by the new manager of Sunderland Football Club, Paolo Di Canio, on Wednesday, saying that he does "not support the ideology of fascism".

Dean Sadgrove wrote an open letter to Mr Di Canio on Tuesday, seeking clarification whether he held fascist beliefs. Mr Di Canio, whose appointment as Sunderland manager was announced on Sunday evening, gave a straight-arm salute more than once when he was a player, and said in his autobiography that he was "fascinated by Mussolini".

The former Foreign Secretary David Miliband resigned from the board of Sunderland FC because of "past political statements" made by Mr Di Canio.

At a press conference after his appointment, Mr Di Canio said that he was not a racist, but refused to answer questions about his political beliefs.

In the open letter, published on his blog on Tuesday, Dean Sadgrove said that he had "married into a family of fervent lifelong Sunderland supporters", and that he was "the child of a Jewish war-refugee who got out of Germany and came to Britain just in time".

Dean Sadgrove continued: "You say that you are not a racist, but it needs great sophistication to understand how fascism and racism are ultimately different. I can promise you that this distinction will be lost on the people of the North-East, where the British National Party is finding fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of its pernicious and poisonous doctrine. . . I believe that unless you clearly renounce fascism in all its manifestations, you will be associated with these toxic far-right tendencies we have seen too much of in this region."

Dean Sadgrove said in the letter that he was "genuinely perplexed" about why Mr Di Canio did not take the opportunity at the press conference "to give an unambiguous response" about where he stood on fascism.

"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 Club now stands to suffer loss of support, as well as see its standing and respect damaged not just in this part of the world but internationally. Its reputation has been hard-won. I am just one of thousands who would be sad to see it squandered."

However, on Wednesday, Mr Di Canio said in a statement: "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."

Dean Sadgrove wrote on his blog on Wednesday that he had been "trying to voice what I thought were the important questions that needed asking". Mr Di Canio's statement on Wednesday had "provided these answers and I warmly welcome that. This will allow everyone to move forward and focus on football at Sunderland, and the job to be done at one of the North-East's great clubs."

Sunderland currently lie two places above the relegation zone in the Premier League.


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