Veteran Channel 4 horse racing presenter John McCririck suffered an unbridled disaster recently when his claim for direct age HR was rejected by an employment tribunal.
The outspoken pundit had claimed that the decision to drop him from Channel 4’s horse racing coverage and pass the reins to less “pantomime” presenters was as a direct result of his age.
Mr McCririck was loved and loathed in equal measures by horse racing viewers and, he argued, the going was good for many years, with no executives ever prompting him to tone down his style. However, following a re-vamp of racing coverage and declining viewer reception to Mr McCririck’s unique style, he was dropped as a presenter in October 2012 at the age of 72. His co-presenter, Tanya Stevenson, who was 42 at the time, was retained.
Being unable to raise a claim for unfair dismissal since he was not an employee, Mr McCririck raised a direct HR claim alleging that the main reason for his departure was his age. A similar (successful) claim was brought by BBC Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly in 2010 when a tribunal found that the decision to replace her was tainted by un-justified age HR.
In Mr McCririck’s case, the tribunal found that the decision was not taken on the basis of the claimant’s age. Having decided this, the tribunal also commented that, if the decision was based on age, it was objectively justified because it was a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. The legitimate aim in this case was attracting a wider audience to Channel 4 racing. Interestingly, this is a very similar ground to the one relied on unsuccessfully by the BBC in Miriam O’Reilly’s case.
It is not clear whether Mr McCririck intends to appeal, although in his own inimitable style he declared himself to be “desolate and inconsolable” following the tribunal’s decision.