Belfast Telegraph

You can't always bet on a safe job for life, John McCririck

By Lindy McDowell

You don't like to kick a man when he's down. And John McCririck, formerly Channel 4's man at the 2.30 at Epsom is, by his own account, not just down but "desolate and inconsolable" after losing his age discrimination case against the station he'd worked with since its launch in 1984. Mr McCririck is 73.

A London employment tribunal ruled against the racing pundit who has been variously described as "flamboyant", "loud", "brash", "sexist" and plain old "obnoxious".

"Mr McCririck," it found, "was dismissed because of his persona emanating from his appearances on celebrity television shows ... 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."

McCririck, who had been hoping for a payout in the region of a mere £3m, modestly described his defeat as "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."

But was the case, as he suggests, really a victory for the ageists?

By his own account McCririck comes across as "unpleasant". Some might even say a bit of an understatement there.

His look is old fogey let loose in the dressing up box. Wild sideburns. Straggly hair. More rings than a rapper. Endless baubles and a Biro hung around his neck. Badges. Specs on a chain. Frock coats and a deerstalker hat. Showaddywaddy meets Sherlock.

In an age when even David Dimbleby has succumbed to the tattoo needle in order to stay current, could he have been salvaged by a makeover? Bradley Wiggins-style sideburns, maybe. A George Osborne haircut. A Miley Cyrus sponge glove to curtail the tic tac sign language. A decent suit.

Possibly not. For it wasn't just how he looked.

McCririck has previously described how he calls his wife The Booby, (apparently the name of an obscure bird) because she is "not very bright, squawks a lot and was easy to catch". Hilarious, eh?

His wife insists his sexist views are all part of an act. But on reality TV shows where he has let loose with his views on a woman's place at the sink and cooker, he's been surprisingly convincing in the chauvinist pig role. He has come across as gobby and pompous.

Racing fans would concede he knows his stuff. But even there viewers are said to have been put off by his hectoring style.

McCririck's problem isn't that he's old. It's that he's dated. Horribly, horrendously dated.

A savvier presenter would not need to be told that television bosses today are understandably extremely sensitive on the issue of overt sexism. Everything about McCririck screams time warp. And not in a good way.

Crying ageism is just a get-out clause. It has become almost a compulsory excuse for anybody over the age of 35 who has been elbowed off screen. But the truth is television has plenty of older performers who recognise that in order to survive, you've got to evolve with the times. In a visual medium, the look, the image is of vital importance.

In any job it's not just about resting on past laurels. McCririck was undoubtedly good at what he did, otherwise he wouldn't have stayed in his role as long as he did. But as a sports presenter he should have known that you've got to play the game. You've got to keep up with the times.

Self-pitying McCririck says he's now a pariah in the business. But the racing pundit has only himself to blame for not staying the course.

He wasn't unsaddled because he grew old. It had a lot to do with his failure to grow up.

'AS A SPORTS PRESENTER, HE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN YOU HAVE TO PLAY THE GAME'

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