John McCririck loses age discrimination claim

The racing pundit John McCririck yesterday lost his employment tribunal claim for age discrimination against Channel 4 and IMG Media Ltd.  The 73 year old was axed from the television coverage in 2012 after a new team took over following the acquisition of all UK horse racing events by Channel 4. The television pundit claimed that he was dumped from his high-profile role by “anonymous suits and skirts” as part of a drive to hire younger faces.

However the judgment was returned and the panel unanimously ruled against him. They accepted the argument of Channel 4 that it’s aim was to bring horse racing to a wider audience. In response to the judgment John McCririck announced

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.

The Tribunal believed that following the acquisition of complete coverage of UK horse racing they wanted to attract a “younger and broader audience while maintaining its existing horse-racing audience of down-market males over 55.”

On argument which which particularly struck a chord with them is that put forward by Channel 4 of the Celebrity persona and pantomime nature of John McCririck’s performances on screen. They took into account his appearances both on the racing programmes and other programmes such as celebrity big brother.

They stated that:

From the evidence before us, it is clear that Mr McCririck’s standing went down as his celebrity profile increased and further evidence of his personal behaviour and opinions became public knowledge…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 audience.

The Defence to Age Discrimination

For an age discrimination claim brought under the Equality Act 2010 to be defended the Respondent; in this case Channel 4; need to show that their treatment of him was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.[1]

The aim which they considered legitimate was that Channel 4 wished “to bring horse-racing to a wider audience”. As stated above the tribunal believed that from the evidence John McCririck was unpalatable to a wider audience.

With regard to whether it was proportionate again the tribunal found that it was. “As Mr Hicks argued at the meeting on 17 October 2012, to engage him as a celebrity presenter for Crown Jewel events would be counter productive when it was from those very Crown Jewel events that Channel 4 hoped to attract new viewers”

So in this instance the tribunal found the Respondent did have a defence to their action but despite what John McCririck says, it is doubtful that this case will significantly hinder other Age discrimination cases. A lot will come down to the facts of the case and the behaviour of the individual respondents which in this case went against John McCririck.

If John McCririck is to appeal the decision he would have to do so based on an error of law rather than merely disagreeing with the judgment of the Tribunal. It is his legal team will spend considerable time trawling through the 44 page document to find any grounds to appeal the decision. If you wish to have a look at the judgment yourself please find it here.