Urgent: millionaire seeks media guru

This morning would be a good time for Ellis Short to pick up the phone and talk to a hot-shot media advisor. Not as good as, say, yesterday morning but definitely better than this afternoon.

By now the multi-millionaire American businessman should have cottoned-on to the fact that the reputation of Sunderland Football Club, one of his British assets, is under severe threat.

Mr Short might have shrugged off the resignation of his vice chairman in protest at the appointment of a new manager, but he would be foolish to ignore today’s newspapers

When pictures of Mussolini and your manager giving fascist salutes suddenly appear in the sports pages you can safely assume that you are facing a full-blown media crisis and the longer you delay taking action the greater the damage.

The story so far: you have appointed an avowed fascist as manager of a football club that has forever been a bastion of working class Labour.  You did not consult your vice-chairman, a local MP and former Foreign Secretary, who quit the board as soon as he heard.

Your chief executive has dismissed this principled resignation as “some people trying to turn the appointment of a new head coach into a political circus”. Your manager, Paolo Di Canio, refuses to explain what he thought he was doing eight years ago when he was photographed saluting Italian fans in a pose that made him look like a fanatical Nazi.

The hot-shot media advisor that Ellis Short so badly needs right now will take two minutes to explain that the situation is going to become horribly worse until the chief executive keeps her mouth shut and Mr Di Canio either apologises for his previous actions or gives a convincing explanation of his current thinking.

Things may be different in Italy, but Mr Di Canio is alone in this country in believing that you can be a fascist without being a racist. Until he recants he will stand as a rallying point for the racist thugs British football clubs have campaigned so hard to exclude from the game.

If there is one issue that has united the media here for the past 70-odd years it has been an implacable hostility to fascism as well as to the violent opposition it attracts. They are not going to drop this story until the matter is resolved.

You cannot divorce sport from politics, and unless the management recognises this quickly and publicly Sunderland FC will suffer something much worse than demotion from the Premiership.

– GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media Ltd.