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Station 'not happy over McCririck'

Sports presenter John McCririck may have been seen as the face of Channel 4 horse racing - but that did not mean his bosses were always happy with the situation, an executive with the TV company has said.

McCririck, 73, has taken Channel 4 and TV production company IMG Media Limited to employment tribunal alleging his sacking last year was motivated by age discrimination. The companies deny his claim.

At a pre-hearing review at Central London Employment Tribunal, Stuart Cosgrove, director of creative diversity at Channel 4, accepted a suggestion by Jennifer Eady QC, representing McCririck, that he had been the face of Channel 4 horse racing.

He went on to say that McCririck, who has "an independent mind", had himself been candid to the hearing that he "divides opinion". Asked whether Channel 4 was content with him as the face of its horse racing, Mr Cosgrove said: "I wouldn't conclude that."

McCririck, of Albert Terrace Mews, Primrose Hill, north London, says in his witness statement that in 1983 he negotiated a deal with a company called Highflyer which was to produce horse racing programmes for Channel 4.

He said: "The racing on Channel 4 became an immediate success and became a flagship programme on a Saturday afternoon. Due to my perceived extravagant personality, I became one of the main faces of the programme and indeed of Channel 4. Again, as part of my contract, I was unable to send in a replacement. I would have to organise my personal life and other activities around Channel 4."

McCririck says the earliest contract available was his agreement with Highflyer in 1997. A fixed two-year contract was agreed with a yearly payment of £105,000. "It was quite clear that the contract entered into between myself and Highflyer was for the sole purpose of Channel 4," he added. At the high point of his career, he was being paid £180,000 per year. He did other work, but with permission, he says.

In January 2008 he was told that the number of days he would be working would be considerably reduced, and was "furious". He says: "I had considered Channel 4 to be main employment and was extremely unhappy that my hours and pay would be reduced."

In August 2012, Channel 4 awarded the contract for racing to IMG Media Limited for a period of four years. "I assumed that my contract would simply transfer from Highflyer to IMG Media Ltd on the same terms and conditions," he said.

While McCririck was on holiday in the US in October last year, Channel 4 sports editor Jamie Aitchison called to say his services were no longer required. No notice was given, McCririck had been sacked by his employer, McCririck says. Some other presenters over the age of 50 were also dismissed at the same time, he says.

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