Essex cricket chairman resigns following JC investigation

Azeem Akhtar liked a string of 'indefensible' tweets but was cleared of antisemitism by an independent review


The chairman of Essex County Cricket Club has decided to step down following an investigation into social media posts sparked by a JC investigation.

Azeem Akhtar endorsed comments that the “Zionist lobby” has “oversized” control of the media and a string of other inflammatory social media posts.

The former board member of Sport England also “liked” on Twitter a defence of comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany, and another post that celebrated athletes boycotting the Jewish state.

In a statement published on Monday, Essex said they respected Mr Akhtar's "integrity" and stressed their due diligence process had found "no evidence" of antisemitism or racism by him."

It added: "The Club acknowledges again Azeem’s all-round skill set and strength of character for the leadership role for which he was selected and is sorry to announce his resignation."

After Mr Akhtar's social media activity was revealed by the JC in December of last year, Essex launched an independent review while he stepped aside.

It has now concluded that Mr Akhtar was “supportive of the Islamic faith and beliefs as opposed to being antisemitic or indicating any other forms of racism.”

Mr Akhtar said: “These last few weeks have been very difficult for my family and me. This has taken a toll on us and I am determined to do justice to my other professional and personal commitments.

"I am passionately committed to fighting all kinds of discrimination whether that be antisemitism, Islamophobia, or any other kind of prejudice.

"As concluded, my social media activity is reflective of my religious and political affiliations and the strong humanitarian stance I take on conflicts around the world.

"ECCC must lead the way with utmost sincerity in being a genuinely diverse and inclusive club. I wish ECCC the very best for the coming season and will continue to support the team as I have done every season since I was a boy.”

Mr Akhtar was the club’s first ethnic minority chairman and was appointed 12 months after a racism scandal led to the ousting of his predecessor. His appointment was intended to “signal the beginning of a new era for the club” following the row.

Speaking in December, the Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Several of the tweets ‘liked’ by Azeem Akhtar breach the International Definition of Antisemitism.

"Essex County Cricket Club must investigate Mr Akhtar’s social media activity immediately, lest cricket start to become a breeding ground for antisemitism denial.”

Several of the comments endorsed by him, they added, were "indefensible".

A tweet posted on May 23 2021 and liked by Mr Akhtar declared: “It is not offensive to say that the Pro–Israel and Zionist lobby have deep pockets and oversized influence/control over the media.

“What happened to Emily Wilder, the Hadids, Dua Lipa and others proves this.”

A photo posted in December 2021 of Jewish anti-racism campaigner Rachel Riley and liked by Mr Akhtar had the caption “#ShameOnRachelRileyForever”. The accompanying picture showed the television star wearing a T-shirt that read: “Jeremy Corbyn is a racist endeavour.”

The cricket boss also liked a tweet posted in May that claimed: “Comparing Israel with Nazis is not antisemitic. In fact, many Jewish people have done so themselves.”

Mr Akhtar also signalled his approval of Algerian athlete Fathi Nurin withdrawing from the Olympics to avoid competing against an Israeli athlete in a “like” posted in July 2021.

Another tweet liked by Mr Akhtar said: “Zionism has very little connection with Judaism but very close relationship with fascism and white supremacy (sic).”

Speaking to the JC at the time, Mr Akhtar said he was “vehemently” not antisemitic and had liked the tweets because he was upset about killings in Israel and Palestine.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive