determined not to slip quietly into retirement
Less than a fortnight after he suggested that he
still hoped to return to Channel 4 Racing, John McCririck burned his bridges
with the station on Wednesday when he announced that he is to sue both the
broadcaster and the producer of its racing coverage for a total of £3m in
lost earnings and punitive damages.
McCririck has been one of the most
visible and recognisable faces of racing among the wider public since making
his debut as Channel 4's reporter in the betting ring in 1983. He has also
achieved further celebrity, and notoriety, via appearances on reality
television shows including Wife Swap and Celebrity Big Brother.
He was dropped from Channel 4's presenting
team and replaced by Tanya Stevenson when the broadcaster chose IMG Sports
Media to replace Highflyer as its production company for racing, following its
acquisition of a monopoly on terrestrial coverage of the sport from January
After such an eccentric and
florid broadcasting career, it would have been a mistake to expect McCririck to
slip quietly into retirement. He also has a reputation as a man who harbours
grudges. Nonetheless, both the vehemence of his attack on Channel 4 and IMG,
and the size of his claim, seem surprising given that he recently described his
long career at the station as "a privilege".
In a statement to the
Press Association, McCririck alleged that he had been sacked as a result of
"After 29 years with Channel 4 Racing, on a rolling annual
contract, I have been sacked without any consultation or cogent explanation,"
McCririck said. "I am 72. For the loss of future earnings, future earnings,
unfair career damaging, public humiliation, stress and mental anguish, I will
be seeking £500,000.
"Ageism is illegal. For tens of thousands of
employees it has become the feared scourge of our society. This litigation
should prove to be a watershed.
"I am seeking a further exemplary,
punitive £2.5m, part of which will be donated to charitable organisations
helping to prevent negative prejudice in the workplace."
As with so
much where McCririck is concerned, his statement manages to blur the line
between rhetorical bluster and the true depth of his convictions. Court cases
can be almost as unpredictable as horse races, but any bookie offering a price
on his chance of success, or a settlement at anything like the £3m he is
claiming for, would make him significant odds-against.
Given that his
lawyers will not be sending him a bill, McCririck may regard the action as a
bet to nothing, but should it ever come to a full hearing, he may also see it
as one more chance to play to the gallery. It is an opportunity he would be
unlikely to spurn.
Channel 4 responded by saying it is "grateful" to
McCririck for his contribution to its racing coverage, but added that "we
reject the suggestions that discrimination on the basis of age played any part
in the decision not to renew his freelance contract and we will be vigorously
defending this claim."
McCririck has engaged both a solicitor and a QC
prepared to work on his case on a no win, no fee basis. Stephen Beverley, his
solicitor, has served papers on David Abraham, Jay Hunt and Jamie Aitchison,
C4's chief executive, creative officer and sports editor respectively, and Carl
Hicks, the executive producer of IMG Sports Media, seeking "full disclosure of
all documents , phone records and emails" relating to the decision not to renew