All banner flights have been suspended from Blackpool Airport base after the message ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ was flown by an aeroplane over the Etihad Stadium on Monday night. The banner was flown over the stadium during a match between Manchester City and Burnley which resulted in Manchester City having a 5-0 win over Burnley.
Manager Stephen Smith, in a statement said the airport and Blackpool Council are “outraged by this incident”.
Burnley say they are “ashamed and embarrassed” by the banner.
Blackpool Airport informed that the incident was reported to police and the Civil Aviation Authority.
Chief superintendent Russ Procter said an investigation of the incident by Lancashire Police has “concluded that there are no criminal offences that have been disclosed at this time”.
Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said his organisation condemned the incident.
Blackpool airport statement read: "We stand against racism of any kind and absolutely do not condone the activity, the message was offensive and the action reprehensible. The decision to fly the banner was taken entirely by the banner flying company without the knowledge or approval of the airport or Blackpool Council.
"Due to the nature of the activity, banners are not checked before take-off and the content is at the operator’s discretion.
“Following an emergency review this morning, Blackpool Airport will suspend all banner towing operations at the airport with immediate effect and we would suggest that other airports should also consider this approach in light of what has happened at Blackpool.”
The aircraft flew over the stadium just minutes after Burnley and City players and staff had taken a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Fans like that don’t deserve to be around football,” Clarets skipper Ben Mee told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“We’re ashamed, we’re embarrassed. It’s a minority of our supporters - I know I speak for a massive part of our support who distance ourselves from anything like that.”
Burnley said in a statement that the banner “in no way represents” what the club stands for and that they will “work fully with the authorities to identify those responsible and take appropriate action”.
Both Burnley and City were wearing shirts with the players’ names replaced with ‘Black Lives Matter’.
The stunt was carried out by Air Ads, which operates out of Blackpool Airport and runs a one-stop shop where the banners are made after which they are flown. They have flown over football stadiums in the past, including a ‘Moyes Out’ one at Old Trafford.
BBC Sport contacting the company, learnt from a man who refused to give his name but said he was packing away the banner. The man said as long as banners were legal and did not use coarse language, the company did not ‘take sides’ and a Black Lives Matter banner had been done previously. He claimed police had been informed of the banner in advance.
Since the Premier League resumed on 17 June after a 100-day break because of the coronavirus pandemic, the players and officials have shown their support for the movement for racial equality after the death of George Floyd in the United States last month.
Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, died as a white police officer held a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. His death was the start of protests around the world.