• Premier League

Sunderland sponsors not considering exit

ESPN staff
April 2, 2013
Sunderland's sponsors remain onboard © Getty Images

The Nelson Mandela Foundation has insisted its relationship with Sunderland will not change in the wake of the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as manager.

The Wearside club staged a 'Nelson Mandela Day' on Saturday prior to their home Premier League defeat to Manchester United, with their first-team squad wearing the foundation's T-shirts before kick-off.

Under the deal, Sunderland will help deliver the foundation's messages of education and social inclusion, and on Tuesday the not-for-profit organisation released a statement to say it was business as usual, despite Di Canio's previous links to fascism.

"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's shirt sponsor, Invest in Africa, has not directly commented on Di Canio's appointment, with a spokesman saying it is "a football-related matter and under the remit of the club".

Another not-for-profit organisation, it promotes the African continent and has a deal that runs until the end of this season, though there is the option to extend that for another year.

Meanwhile, Di Canio insists he is willing to give any players who he thinks aren't pulling their weight a "kick up the bottom" as he aims to transform their fortunes.

Sunderland are a point off the relegation zone and the new manager admitted his first training session came as a shock to some players, stressing the need for discipline.

Di Canio, who previously achieved success as manager of Swindon, said: "You have to know how to manage your players.

"It is obvious you have different egos in the Premier League, but you have to have strict rules, discipline, and work hard on the field during the week, otherwise the product you deliver on Saturday is not good. That won't change. It's not just Paolo Di Canio's opinion - all managers around the world think the same.

"If everybody interprets the game wrong because they do not train properly during the week or because there is no discipline you have an anarchists' team, and if there is anarchy maybe the players try to do the right thing but doesn't work in the way it should. Especially the new generation - not because they are bad guys but they are young and full of technology, they go round the town and if you don't make them concentrate during training sessions you don't help them to be focused.

"I am not saying it happened here, I have to be clear. I don't know what happened here but, with the players we have got, I can't imagine how we are one point from relegation zone. Yesterday was the first training session and it was a shock for them.

"But they showed fantastic commitment and we are going to change a bit our philosophy in the way we approach our training sessions, because if you do not prepare yourself the best in your training session you can't do a good job in a Saturday or Sunday game.

"We have a very good foundation with five or six players with fantastic talent and a group of young players who are full of enthusiasm to prove their quality. We can now light the fire and let them play together with energy and quality.''

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