The horse racing broadcaster John McCririck has died aged 79.
After failing to get into the diplomatic service, he was briefly a waiter at the Dorchester hotel. During the era when off-course betting was illegal in the UK, he worked for an illegal bookmaker, before becoming a bookmaker himself, which he admits that he failed at. He then became a tic-tac man.
He began his career in journalism at The Sporting Life, where he twice won at the British Press Awards for his campaigning journalism; he was sacked in 1984. He joined the Daily Star, but was later sacked by the newspaper after allegations emerged that he was in debt to his bookmaker; he later successfully sued the paper at an employment tribunal.
Having previously become a results sub-editor on the BBC’s Grandstand, from 1981 he joined ITV Sport’s horse racing coverage; he had previously appeared in a debate about fox hunting on the ITV children’s programme Saturday Banana in 1978. During 1984 and 1985, horse racing moved from ITV to Channel 4 as Channel 4 Racing, where his role was expanded and he reported from the betting ring. His signature flamboyant attire of a large deerstalker hat, sideburns, and brightly coloured matching suits and trousers, coupled with huge cigars, became a recognisable personal style.
In October 2012 it was announced by Channel 4 that McCririck would not be included in the team presenting racing from January 2013, which McCririck blamed on ageism, taking Channel 4 to an employment tribunal. On 13 November, the tribunal ruled against McCririck: “The unanimous judgement of the Tribunal is that the Claimant’s claim of direct age discrimination fails.” It continued, “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 potential audience.” The panel was told by witnesses from the television station and IMG (the production company) that he was dropped because he was “offensive” and “disgusting”.
In 2018 John joined the editorial team at The Racing Paper as a weekly columnist.