'There's nobody better around': Racing pundit John McCririck tackles Channel 4 over age discrimination

73-year-old claims he lost his job with broadcaster purely based on his age

Former Channel 4 horseracing pundit John McCririck claimed today he was striking a blow for anyone aged 30 or over against "youth obsessed bosses" as he launched a claim against his former employers for age discrimination.

Speaking on the first day of an employment tribunal, the 73-year-old insisted there was “nobody better around” to front coverage of the sport after being axed to make way for a new team led by Clare Balding this year.

Mr McCririck, who said he “lived to work”, has said will seek £3m in damages, alleging his dismissal left him depressed, without a job and reduced to watching daytime TV. He called for punitive exemplary damages to be imposed to put an end to ageism in the workplace.

Instantly recognisable for his deerstalker hat, chunky jewellery and bushy sideburns, the former Celebrity Big Brother contestant insisted his unique presentation style had the full support of bosses. He rejected suggestions he was “anti-woman” and said that producers had encouraged him in a “pantomime villain” act.

“Because Captain Hook is horrible to Peter Pan and kids in Peter Pan, it doesn’t mean the actor playing him goes around abusing kids in the street. All this is a pantomime villain thing that Channel 4 encouraged,” he told reporters. Denying that his use of nicknames might upset people, the Harrow-educated tipster said: “It’s a very public school thing. It’s a bit immature but it lightens up the programme. Channel 4 never, ever said, ‘Look, we don’t like this sexist thing, we don’t like it when you call your names, don’t wave your arms around’. If the producer had said ‘Don’t wave your arms around’, fine, I would not have. They never, ever spoke to me once,” he added.

Channel 4 and TV production company IMG Media Limited deny their decision to axe him was motivated by age discrimination. But the former presenter said he had been the victim of a youth-obsessed culture.

He said: “We are dealing with ruthless, tough people. We have got anonymous suits and skirts who come into any company. They make their decisions, unattributable, unchallenged, they decide the future of people and no-one can answer against them. It is a culture in this country of new people coming into jobs, they have got to change, they can’t go in and keep the same people or people say, ‘What are you doing?’ It’s an age thing, they use the word ‘freshen up’. Freshen up is a euphemism for kicking out older people. People in their 30s onwards live in fear in this country that the new suits and skirts will come in and just go for new and trendy. It’s totally wrong.”

The case was adjourned to allow the judges to read witness statements and watch clips of Mr McCririck’s appearances on television.