David Miliband Quits Sunderland Over Di Canio

South Shields MP David Miliband has resigned as Sunderland FC vice-chairman over the appointment of new manager Paolo Di Canio.

The former foreign secretary, who was also a non-executive director of the club, said he had made the decision due to the Italian's "past political statements".

In a statement on his website , he said: "I wish Sunderland AFC all success in the future. It is a great institution that does a huge amount for the North East and I wish the team very well over the next vital seven games.

"However, in the light of the new manager's past political statements, I think it right to step down."

Di Canio is a controversial figure who has previously admitted to being a fascist and has been photographed several times making a so-called Roman salute while playing for Italian club Lazio.

After making the salute against Livorno he received a one match ban and a several thousand euro fine.

In 2005, he told the Italian news agency ANSA: "I am a fascist, not a racist."

When he joined Swindon Town in 2011, the GMB union reportedly cut its sponsorship deal with the club in protest over Di Canio's views.

The 44-year-old joined Sunderland on a two-and-a-half year deal on Sunday after Martin O'Neill was sacked by the struggling Premier League side.

He left Swindon Town in February, having guided them to promotion from League Two in his first managerial role.

Sunderland's American chairman Ellis Short said: "Paolo is hugely enthused by the challenge that lies ahead of him. He is passionate, driven and raring to get started.

"The sole focus of everyone for the next seven games will be to ensure we gain enough points to maintain our top-flight status. I think that the chances of that are greatly increased with Paolo joining us."

Mr Miliband recently announced he would be leaving British politics to take up a job with a charity in New York, saying it was the right move to allow the Labour party to progress under the leadership of his brother Ed.