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Di Canio in Swindon, the Dog that Didn’t Bark

Mark Haddon’s book The Curious Incident Of the Dog In the Night-time was set in Swindon, referencing the famous dictum by Sherlock Holmes, in the story The Silver Blaze.

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.

Throughout the recent furore concerning Paulo Di Canio, the contrast between the reaction to his appointment at Sunderland and his appointment at Swindon has been pronounced. For example, pompous Tory idiot Iain Dale:

It was OK for him to manage little old Swindon Town in League One, but oh no, the thought of him managing Premier League Sunderland is repellent. No, I’ll tell you what is repellent – it’s the so-called ‘liberal left’ deciding who should do what based on whether someone conforms to their own idea of normality or political acceptability. And then, only deciding to enforce their own illiberal ideas when it suits them. Where were the howls of indignation when Di Canio took over at Swindon Town? No one cared, because, well, it was only little old Swindon, wasn’t it?

It is not entirely true of course that there was no reaction to Di Canio’s appointment at Swindon, as I have explained myself before. Several Swindon Town Fans returned their season tickets in protest at his appointment, as admitted by the Club’s chief executive, Nick Watson, in June 2011. Di Canio’s appointment was also noted by the far right, on the neo-Nazi website Final Conflict. (This was not a spoof).


Opposition to Di Canio’s appointment at Swindon was also reported in the national press, for example the Daily Mail.

But certainly pressure on Sunderland AFC has been much more sustained. Even the American NBC have reported how the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have called for Di Canio to be sacked by Sunderland’s American owner, Ellis Short.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, dismissed the statement and said Wednesday that Di Canio should be fired, comparing him to sacked Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice.

“I would say sports is a very special category. Sports plays a very important role with young people,” he said. “I would say racism or bigotry reverberates in a greater way, so the standard needs to be much higher than, I would say, the manager of a garage.”

Our society uses athletes and sports figures not only to sell Wheaties and sneakers, but also because they are looked up to as role models,” he said. “Here [with Di Canio], I think firing is appropriate.”

Foxman said he believed people could have “an epiphany” about past mistakes and be given a second chance if they had genuinely changed.

This is not one of those. He [Di Canio] is very clear what he is. He’s both a fascist and a racist and he’s proud of it,” he said.

For the moment, he denies it [being a fascist and a racist] because his job is at stake,” he added.

Foxman’s observation that Di Canio’s current weasel words of non-denying denial need to be contextualised by the fact he fighting to keep his job is an obvious point, but one that needs to be repeated. Di Canio’s actions and past statements speak loud and clear. For example, the Sun Newspaper reported with pictures how just a few months before he took over at Swindon, Di Canio had attended the funeral of convicted fascist terrorist, Paolo Signorelli, who spent eight years in gaol after a 1980 bomb attack which killed 85 people. This same story was picked up by the Mail and ITN.

Incidently, West Ham co-owner David Sullivan has recently said he would never appoint Paolo Di Canio as the club’s manager because of his fascist views.

Di Canio’s evasive and absurd statement that he does not support “the ideology of fascism” (implying that he refuses to renounce alleigance to the history, symbols or deeds of fascism) is flatly contradicted by this picture of Di Canio wearing a T-shirt in 2008, bearing the slogan  “Dio, Patria, Famiglia” which translates as “God, Country & Family”, a popular slogan used by supporters of the Mussolini regime since the 1920s and still used today by supporters of right-wing extremist parties in Italy. Hope Not Hate have tracked the source to a pro-Mussolini website named Ferlandia Predappio which specializes in far-right memorabilia.

It is also pertinant that while Di Canio has made a point of emphasising that he is  not racist, he has in the past given reason to believe he is anti-Semitic.

When Lazio played Livorno, a team known for its left-wing following, Di Canio also raised his arm in a fascist salute. Whilst the Livorno fans chanted anti-fascist songs, visiting Lazio “Irriducibili” Ultras held up a swastika banner.

Particularly outraged by Di Canio’s salute were various Jewish groups within Italy, including the president of the Italian Maccabi Federation, Vittorio Pavoncello who called on Lazio and the Italian authorities to take action.

However, in a display of abject antisemitism, Di Canio replied arrogantly to the criticism declaring: “If we are in the hands of the Jewish community it’s the end”.

Which brings us again to why the dog didn’t bark when Di Canio started at Swindon. Let us be clear, this is not because Di Canio was outstandingly popular in Swindon, or because people were unconcerned about his fascism. This is the state of opinion IN SWINDON, as evidenced by the Swindon Advertiser’s own poll this week:

swindon advertiser poll do canio

Normally, local papers are keen to prolong controversy, but in the Di Canio case they killed it as soon as they could. This makes business sense as the survival of the paper is predicated upon local sports, and any denial of access to the Town board, manager or boot room would damage its readership, and that would damage it advertising income. The Swindon Advertisier could not afford to rock the boat with the club, and with relative lack of national interest in Swindon Town, this suppressed the story.

In addition, the Swindon Advertiser is now owned by the American giant Newsquest, and has only a perfuntory interest in the reputation of the town, the editing is even done in Oxford now, and there is a steady churn of inexperienced rookie journos; the profits of Newsquest are repatriated to the USA, and UK Newsquest journalists are usually poorly paid, and there has not been a payrise for the last four years. There is a general threat to the quality of local journalism, and therefore to the standards of accountability

But sadly, the Adver did get swept away with ridiculous Di Canio fever, and would it seems happily have invaded Abyssinia for him. Compare this photo of Italian fascists in 2002

irriducibili di canio

with this poster produced by the Swindon Advertiser:


Had they no shame? Did the Adver journalists really NEVER research Di Canio in his nearly two seasons at the County Ground? As professional journalists they should have known about the demonstrations in support of Di Canio by openly anti-semitic fascists at Lazio, but they went out of their way to reproduce the same scenes at Swindon. They let themselves down, they let the club down, and they let the people of Swindon down.


  1. Why didn’t they say anything at Swindon? You’d have to ask them in and around Swindon. The West Country is seen as a less radical, a less militant, even a less political area than the North East. But time was when the two were evenly matched. The Coalition has created the circumstances for a revival of that tradition. But does Labour have the will. If not, then who has?

    David Miliband was going to have to resign from Sunderland, anyway. He could hardly have done the job from New York. But one hopes that this appalling appointment will finally bring to a head the question of who owns this country’s last great expressions of working-class culture, and last great focal points of local patriotism.

    There should be mutual ownership of the clubs by the fans, as in Spain. And there
    should be municipal ownership of the grounds, as in, now that we come to mention it, Italy. The Americans would never permit ownership of major sports teams by foreign nationals thousands of miles, who knew nothing about the local culture and who cared only about the money. They are right. Nor should we.

    The Durham Miners’ Association, which is rightly demanding the return of the Wearmouth Miners’ Lodge Banner that hangs in the Stadium of Light over the former mineshaft, is not short of a bob or two. It continues to put on the Gala every year, and it co-owns the Morning Star, which still comes out as a daily paper despite also publishing its entire content on the Internet. Watch that space.

    Meanwhile, Sunderland was part of County Durham in September 1943, when the Durham Light Infantry was part of the army that landed at Salerno, Reggio and Taranto, thereby beginning the liberation of Italy. They were still in Italy on VE Day. That city’s football club therefore has until 3rd September 2013, the seventieth anniversary of the start of the Italian Campaign, to be rid of this person. Or let all hell break loose from the Tyne to the Tees two months later on Remembrance Sunday.

  2. Andy Newman says:

    “Why didn’t they say anything at Swindon? You’d have to ask them in and around Swindon. ”

    Dave, I live in Swindon, 5 minutes from the County Ground, and it was me who pulled the GMB sponsorship from Town when they appointed di Canio.

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