Racing pundit John McCririck was sacked by Channel 4 because his ‘pantomime persona’ is ‘unpalatable’ to a wide audience, an employment tribunal ruled.
Dismissing the 73-year-old’s age discrimination claims, a Central London Employment Tribunal panel said that McCririck could be seen by some as ‘arrogant and confrontational’.
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.
The pundit, famed for his deerstalker, tic-tac gestures and gold jewellery, took his former employer and TV 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.
In its judgment, the 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.
“Mr McCririck was dismissed because of his persona emanating from his appearances from celebrity television shows, and the associated press articles resulting from them, together with his appearances as a broadcaster on Channel 4 Racing where, as he accepted, his style of dress, attitudes, opinions and tic tac gestures were not in keeping with the new aims, and his opinions seen as arrogant and confrontational.”
McCririck told the Press Association: “This is an 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 unimpaired ability and merit.
“I have let them all down along with my wife, The Booby, 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.
“Former Labour home secretary David Blunkett MP said in August: ‘The way TV executives worship the cult of youth seems to be an unstoppable fetish’. It is now.
“With my legal team we are now out of contact while studying the judgment in detail.”
During the hearing McCririck claimed sexist remarks and rude behaviour, especially on reality TV 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.
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.”
A Channel 4 spokesman said: “We welcome the unanimous verdict of the tribunal that John McCririck’s claim fails and that Channel 4 did not discriminate on the basis of age.
“We are grateful to John for his contribution towards Channel 4’s racing coverage over many years, but disappointed that he decided to bring this claim.”