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Sunderland sponsorship not threatened

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.

• Di Canio ignoring media coverage
• Blog: Di Canio can't lose
• Di Canio: Discipline is key

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 statement that he was a fascist.

"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, anti-discrimination campaign group Kick It Out expressed concern over the appointment of Di Canio.

A statement from the group read: "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."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report