John McCririck loses age discrimination case

Racing pundit John McCririck lost his age discrimination employment tribunal case against Channel 4 yesterday.
John McCririck said he was dumped from his role on Channel 4 Racing as part of a drive to hire younger faces. Picture: PAJohn McCririck said he was dumped from his role on Channel 4 Racing as part of a drive to hire younger faces. Picture: PA
John McCririck said he was dumped from his role on Channel 4 Racing as part of a drive to hire younger faces. Picture: PA

The 73-year-old argued that he was sacked by the broadcaster because of his age.

McCririck said he was dumped from his high-profile role on Channel 4 Racing by “anonymous suits and skirts” as part of a drive to hire younger faces.

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But a Central London Employment Tribunal panel ruled against him. The pundit, famed for his deerstalker, tic-tac gestures and gold jewellery, took his former employer and production company IMG Media Limited to the tribunal, alleging his sacking last year was motivated by age discrimination.

Both firms denied discrimination in the £3 million case.

McCririck said: “This is a historic setback for all employees in their 30s to their 70s.

“After such a landmark judicial verdict, my failed legal action ensures that anonymous suits and skirts, who control the media, numerous other businesses and the public sector, will now enjoy complete freedom to replace older employees whatever their ability and merit.

“I have let them all down along with my wife, the Booby [his nickname for her], my legal team, friends, colleagues and countless members of the public who supported me throughout. My grateful thanks and apologies to every one of them.”

During the hearing, McCririck claimed that sexist remarks and rude behaviour, especially on reality television shows such as Celebrity Big Brother and Celebrity Wife Swap, were a “pantomime” role that had been actively encouraged by Channel 4.

But the panel was told by witnesses from the station and IMG that he was dropped because he was “offensive” and “disgusting”.

McCririck was ditched when Channel 4 awarded the contract for racing to IMG Media last year, and unveiled a new presenting team headed by Clare Balding.

In closing submissions, Thomas Linden QC, counsel for Channel 4, said McCririck had suggested he could switch from one “thoroughly obnoxious” persona to another, more serious one.

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However, he said: “We see time and time again the possibility of the claimant being a serious character and failing woefully,” giving an example of a Sunday Times interview where McCririck had “gone on” about Kate Winslet’s breasts and wanting to have sex with Dawn French.

Mr Linden told the tribunal that a survey suggested that McCririck was highly unpopular with viewers. “Even without data, it’s a reasonable assumption, isn’t it, that the claimant’s profile, whether that is in his reality television programmes or in racing broadcasting, was offputting to many,” he said.

“A lot of racing viewers are right-thinking people who find this sort of behaviour obnoxious.”

Jennifer Eady QC, representing McCririck, told the panel the 73-year-old had already suffered the humiliation of having his days and hours cut but had carried on working.

“Why? Because Mr McCririck was passionate about this job,” she said. “If there was one thing he loved doing it was this, and he had done it for 28 years.”

She said IMG wanted a “younger, sexier, more glamorous” programme, which had influenced the decision to axe McCririck from its coverage.

In its judgment, the employment tribunal panel said: “All the evidence is that Mr McCririck’s pantomime persona, as demonstrated on the celebrity television appearances, and his persona when appearing on Channel 4 Racing, together with his self-described bigoted and male chauvinist views, were clearly unpalatable to a wider potential audience.

“The tribunal is satisfied that the respondent had the legitimate aim of attracting a wider audience to horseracing.”