AP NEWS

Sky-high headache for ICC ahead of final

July 11, 2019
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An aircraft tows a banner that reads "Help end disappearances in Pakistan" as it flies over the venue of the Cricket World Cup semi-final match between England and Australia at Edgbaston in Birmingham, England, Thursday, July 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — Cricket’s governing body has a sky-high headache: How can it stop planes flying over World Cup games carrying political messages?

A small plane circled the semifinal between Australia and England five times on Thursday leading a protest banner in the skies of Birmingham. The banner read, “World must speak up for Balochistan,” a province in Pakistan. Play continued as normal.

Later, a small plane again appeared over the Edgbaston ground after the end of Australia’s innings, this time towing a banner reading, “Help end disappearances in Pakistan.”

Aware of potential security risks, and keen to try and reduce politics in cricket, the ICC is not amused.

“We do not condone any sort of political messages at the Cricket World Cup,” the ICC said in a statement. “We have worked with local police forces around the country throughout the tournament to prevent the World Cup being used as a platform for political protests, so we are incredibly disappointed these flights continue to take place.”

The ICC said it was determined to avoid a repeat at the World Cup final in London on Sunday.

“We are working very closely with the relevant agencies to make sure there is an air exclusion zone in place for manned and unmanned flights during the final at Lord’s,” the statement said.

Earlier in the tournament, a plane flew political banners over two group matches in Leeds.

During the India-Sri Lanka match, a plane towed banners reading, “Justice for Kashmir,” and “India stop genocide & free Kashmir.” Before that, during the Pakistan-Afghanistan match, a banner was towed also about Balochistan.

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