Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Sunderland partnership not under threat

Paolo Di Canio's appointment at Sunderland was confirmed on Sunday

Sunderland's new partnership with The Nelson Mandela Foundation is not under threat following the appointment of Paolo Di Canio, the organisation has confirmed.

The new link, which was celebrated in the build-up to Saturday's Barclays Premier League match against Manchester United, with Sunderland players wearing the foundation's T-shirts before kick-off, has been set up help deliver the foundation's messages of education and social inclusion.

The club's appointment of Di Canio, who has previously said he holds fascist views and on Tuesday refused to answer questions on the subject in his first press conference at the club, look to be at odds with this initiative.

However, the not-for-profit organisation today released a statement following a meeting with Sunderland management and new boss Di Canio on Monday stressing the partnership remains strong.

"The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and the management of Sunderland Football Club met in England on Monday, 1 April 2013 to discuss the public debates around Sunderland's new coach. Mr Di Canio participated in the meeting," the statement read.

"The Centre recently entered into a partnership with the club designed to promote the legacy of our Founder, Nelson Mandela, and to help ensure the future sustainability of the Centre. At the heart of the partnership is a commitment to our Founder's values with a special focus on human rights and anti-racism.

"At the meeting on Monday, Sunderland reaffirmed its commitment to these values and the ethos of the partnership. It must be stressed that the Centre's relationship is with the club, not with any individual in the club."

Sunderland shirt sponsor Invest in Africa distanced itself from the debate surrounding the controversial appointment of Di Canio. The pioneering shirt sponsorship deal with the not-for-profit business initiative, aiming to promote the continent, was launched last June and sits well alongside the new partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Invest in Africa refused to discuss the effect Di Canio's appointment could have on the sponsorship deal when contacted, but a spokesperson said: "It (Di Canio's position) is a football-related matter and under the remit of the club."

The shirt sponsorship deal is only for a year and runs until the end of the current season, although there is an option to extend it for 2013/14. It is not known when Invest in Africa will meet to decide whether to renew the sponsorship deal with Sunderland for next year.

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