Paulo Di Canio: We Must Prevent Fascism Becoming Acceptible

I was delighted at the response of David Miliband in resigning as vice chair of Sunderland after the appointment of open fascist Paulo di Canio as manager. Since then, Durham NUM have asked for their banner to be returned, up until now proudly displayed at the Stadium of Light:

Davey Hopper, General Secretary of the NUM in Durham, and a former secretary at Monkwearmouth pit – on which Sunderland’s Stadium of Light is built – said the fury of his members had sparked the move.

He said: “We are writing to the club asking for the return of the banner unless Di Canio says he is not a fascist. Otherwise his appointment will besmirch the memory of the miners who lost their lives in the fight against fascism in World War II.

“We do not want our union associated with the club now.”

Back in 2011, Wiltshire and Swindon GMB, where I am branch secretary, withdrew our sponsorship and commercial links with Swindon Town FC, when they appointed Di Canio. During the twelve months up to that point we had provided £350 in direct sponsorship, and £3500 in business to the conference/catering arm as we used the club venue for training. We also provided a free advert for season tickets in our branch newsletter with distribution of 5000. These were popular decisions among the branch committee, and the direct sponsorship brought with it free tickets and other benefits that were raffled among members. Small beer compared to some big sponsors, but Wiltshire and Swindon GMB had a genuine commitment to the club.

Speaking on BBC television news yesterday, Jeremy Wray, the former chair of Swindon Town FC who appointed Di Canio said that the GMB sponsorship had only been £50. It is a sad reflection on the competence of Mr Wray’s financial governance of the club that he cannot distinguish between £50 and nearly £4000. In any event, we have never claimed the financial relationship was significant for the club. However, as a committed anti-racist and anti-fascist organisation, our branch of the GMB could not continue to be formally associated with Swindon Town once they had an openly fascist manager; incidentally, three former Swindon Town players had died fighting fascism in World War Two. Mr Wray should also reflect that whatever the relatively small scale of financial involvement from GMB with Swindon Town FC, the publicity generated by withdrawing it resulted in newspaper articles in the UK, Sweden and Italy, and extensive radio coverage, including a BBC Five Live interview. The appointment of an open fascist by Swindon Town could have helped to rehabilitate Italian fascism had it gone unremarked, this did not happen.

di Canio tattooHowever, the most remarkable claim by Mr Wray to the BBC yesterday was that he did not ask Di Canio about his politics before appointing him. Let us be clear here, this is not the question of privately held political views, or even political views compartmentalised away from football. Paulo Di Canio had twice made the fascist “Roman Salute” on the pitch at Lazio; he has a tattoo on his arm saying “Dux” (referring to Mussolini) and has a fascist Fasces emblem tattooed on his back, and he regularly took his shirt off at Lazio to display this to fans. What is more, the fascist hooligans, the “irriducibili” ultras who follow Lazio idolise Di Canio as being one of them, as shown in a 2002 BBC documentary, here, and especially in part two here.

After making a fascist salute on the pitch, Di Canio said “ I always salute in this way and will continue to”. It is therefore extraordinary that Jeremy Wray did not seek to protect Swindon Town FC’s reputation by seeking assurances in advance that Di Canio would desist from such behaviour while at Swindon. In fact, according to the Guardian “On more than one occasion Swindon were contacted by police to tell them that the way Di Canio goaded opposition fans at the end of games was unacceptable”.

It is perhaps even more remarkable that Sunderland CEO Margaret Byrne has said:

“Sunderland AFC is a traditional football club, with a rich and proud history. It has a strong ethos and ethics and that has not changed in any shape or form.

“Naturally it’s been very disappointing to read some of the reaction to Paolo’s appointment in the last 24 hours. Anyone who has met Paolo and spoken with him personally, as we did in depth before making this appointment, will know that he is an honest man, a man of principle and a driven, determined and passionate individual.

“To accuse him now, as some have done, of being a racist or having fascist sympathies, is insulting not only to him but to the integrity of this football club.”

It is literally incomprehensible that Ms Bryne thinks that someone who is “honest, principled and driven” cannot also be a fascist. Especially as – let us recall – Paulo di Canio has himself described himself as a fascist, he has fascist tattoos, he has made fascist salutes on the pitch, and has known affinity with fascist ultras who support his old club Lazio.

Note that despite weasel words from Di Canio, he has not denied being a fascist. He has however denied being a racist, but several black players have expressed concerns about him, from Shaka Hislop to former Lazio star Ousmane Dabo, and Swindon Town apologised to black player Jonathan Tehoue for “inappropriate” remarks about him by Di Canio in 2012.

Tehoue’s lawyer wrote to the club complaining the Town manager had made a comment to the Frenchman in reference to his skin colour, yet Swindon said the report was “without merit”. Di Canio was pledged “complete and unequivocal support”, however his employers have since done a U-turn, having written in response to Tehoue’s lawyer. The letter read: “The club wishes to make it clear that it does not condone the reference made by Mr Di Canio during training on 29 March to your client.” The BBC reported documents they obtained as reading: “The club accepts that the use of this phrase was inappropriate and apologises to your client for any upset that this has caused him.”

Sunderland are making a clear stance that they do not find fascist political views objectionable, and that they are unconcerned about who they offend.

  1. “He was with Swindon for a long time and your mouth was shut.”

    Well that is not true is it.

    My opposition to Di Canio being appointed was widely reported, in papers like the Mail and the Mirror, as well as on Radio Five Live.

  2. Also can you put the reference to the alleged racism where Swindon Town did an investigation and found it to have no substance? Did Swindon Town also release the apology before the investigation? And while we’re here can you tell me who Di Cannios best friends are in British football? In case you are unaware they are Trevor Sinclair and Chris Powell, these two lads are black, now tell me why would a racist have black friends? If you’re going to slag an individual off then please print the full story not just the parts which suit your agenda.

  3. What do you make of David Milliband telling commercial partners of SAFC that he thinks Di Canio is neither a racist or fascist ?

  4. Andy is right Imran (or is it Terry?). Andy has long been in opposition to Di Canio being a football manager. Several articles on Socialist Unity attest to that.

  5. Left futures if your going to publish any further nonsense, can you at least spell his Paolo’s name correctly

    Gmb what a joke, provided £350 in direct sponsorship wow, barely more than the cost of my season ticket. What pleasure i got from reading what Jeremy said. I can’t believe your still harking on about your withdrawal. Well you’ll be able to return to the club now with your lucrative input to our club that will be sat in this same division

  6. To Irriducibiliswindon, maybe you should concentrate on your own writing before lecturing others. You should also try reading the article, the GMB provided £3500 to Swindon FC by using it as a training venue. Lastly, using Chris Powell as an example of a best mate is laughable. Powell has said “It feels like I’ve been used to sort out someone else’s problem. We were team-mates for a year, in 2003 at Charlton”