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The controversy surrounding Martin O'Neil's replacement continues with the anti-racism group releasing a statement which challenges both parties to confirm their position

Anti-racism group Kick It Out have released a statement urging Sunderland and Paolo Di Canio to clarify their stance on discrimination.

In his first press conference as Sunderland boss Di Canio refused to answer questions about whether he holds fascist beliefs.

The ex-Swindon boss has labelled the controversy surrounding his appointment "ridiculous and pathetic" following the resignation of former foreign secretary David Miliband from the Sunderland board because of Di Canio's "past political statements".

The statement reads: “It is not part of Kick It Out’s remit to sanction the selection of staff of football clubs. 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.
 
“It is all too easy for positive progress and engagement to be compromised by inappropriate statements, and both Sunderland supporters and members of its local community will be looking for reassurance on these points.
 
“When fascism is referenced within the context of English football, there is a wider concern. 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.

“Kick It Out and its partners have held concerns for some time about similar groups operating in the UK. Now is the time to reinforce this vigilance."

When questioned about his political stance Di Canio answered: "I don't have to answer this question any more,"

He said the club had already issued "a very good statement" containing "very, very clear words" from himself before adding "I don't want to talk about politics. I'm not in the Houses of Parliament, I'm not a political person, I will only talk about football."

Read the full statement here.

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