Azeem Akhtar has stepped down as Essex chairman just three days after being appointed to the role, while an independent review is conducted into his historical activity on social media following accusations of antisemitism.
The launch of the “immediate” investigation was announced just hours after an article published on Thursday in The Jewish Chronicle accused Akhtar of endorsing antisemitism.
Akhtar was appointed as the club’s chairman on Monday, with Essex saying his tenure would “signal the beginning of a new era for the club” after previous chairman John Faragher had resigned in November 2021 following allegations he had used racist language in a 2017 board meeting.
Akhtar released his own statement on Thursday evening saying he would voluntarily step aside while the investigation was carried out, before the club added a statement of its own.
“I have taken the decision today to voluntarily step aside as Chair of Essex County Cricket Club while an independent review takes place into recent matters that have been raised,” Akhtar said.
“I have made the decision to initiate this review because it is important that I as Chair and Essex County Cricket Club more widely hold ourselves to the highest standards of governance and accountability. By stepping aside, I want to show leadership and ensure the club can focus on the ongoing challenges it is tackling.
“I am resolutely committed to ensuring that Essex County Cricket Club is an inclusive and welcoming environment for people of all backgrounds.”
The club added: “Essex County Cricket Club supports Azeem Akhtar’s personal decision to voluntarily step aside as chair of the club while an immediate independent review is conducted into the circumstances around some historic content on social media.
“Essex and Azeem Akhtar are determined to uphold the values of strong leadership, governance and accountability. By initiating this review, Azeem has demonstrated his commitment to those core values.
“We remain committed to tackling discrimination and racism and have a zero-tolerance approach in this area. All of those connected with Essex want to ensure the club is a safe and welcoming place where everyone, no matter of background, can play a major part in the future of Essex Cricket.”
Akhtar’s appointment came after the club had been warned by the England and Wales Cricket Board in May for failing to meet board diversity targets, and also fined £50,000 over the alleged racist remark made by Faragher in 2017.
Akhtar, who was already a board member at Essex before his appointment, has been replaced on an interim basis by Essex deputy chairman Sir Stephen O’Brien.