John McCririck was sacked as Channel 4’s racing pundit because of his “arrogant and confrontational” personality not because he was too old, an employment tribunal has ruled.
Despite being one of the sport’s most instantly recognisable figures with his deer stalker hat and outlandish jewellery, the 73-year-old was legitimately axed to make way for a new presentation team led by Clare Balding after controversial appearances on reality television shows rendered him unpalatable to audiences, it was found.
Mr McCririck had been seeking £3m in damages claiming age discrimination from his employers, TV production company IMG Media Limited. He described the ruling of the Central London Employment Tribunal as a “historic setback” for all workers aged 30-70.
But in its judgment, the panel said he was not a victim of ageism.
“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 horse racing.”
It found that his style of dress, views and tic-tac gestures were “not in keeping with the new aims” of the programme makers,” it said.
Mr McCririck thanked his supporters. “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 unimpaired ability and merit,” he said.
The racing expert was criticised for his boorish behaviour on Celebrity Big Brother and Celebrity Wife Swap. He claimed that this was an act encouraged by his employers.
Channel 4 announced the new presenting line up in 2012 after it became racing’s exclusive terrestrial broadcaster when the BBC relinquished its rights to show the Derby, the Grand National and Royal Ascot.
There was no place in the new line up for Mr McCririck who has presented trackside for ITV and then Channel 4 for 31 years. He alleged his dismissal left him depressed, without a job for the first time in his life forcing him to watch daytime TV
An IMG spokesman said: “IMG is pleased that the tribunal's unanimous decision has recognised that age discrimination played no part in the decision not to include John McCririck in the Channel 4 Racing team from 2013.”