Four racecourse commentators whose performance was under review have been given the all clear to continue calling the horses home. Leading BBC race commentator Jim McGrath and Channel 4’s Derek Thompson were never at risk of losing their principle job with the broadcasting organisations, but, along with Darren Owen and Iain McKenzie, could have lost any further work describing the action over racecourse public address systems.
Although they have not formally been told that their positions are safe, they have been offered work for the third quarter of this year, which has just begun, and falls after their six-month review period. It means, too, that they will be free to apply to be included on the commentary rota for the final three months of 2012.
The Commentator User Group (CUG), which is made up of representatives from RaceTech, the Racecourse Association, Racing UK, Turf TV, At The Races and SIS, is keen to put an end to any further speculation about the future of the four commentators. They meet tomorrow when they are expected simply to close the matter.
They clearly hope everything to do with this matter will quickly be forgotten, and have declined to comment on the grounds of confidentiality. Well, there’s nothing confidential if the four continue to do racecourse commentaries, and equally so if they don’t. More significant is the decision of the CUG to make it clear to the commentators that their contract will be cancelled if they say anything further about it. McGrath described the situation as like being on death row when the review was first announced.
The three new members of the racecourse commentary team, Matt Chapman, Gary Capewell and John Blance are in a slightly different situation. They were all allocated 15 meetings during their six-month trial period, but with the substantial number of abandoned meetings, it hasn’t been possible for them all to fulfil that number. Rather than extend the trial period, the CUG has asked them to submit what they think are their five best commentaries. The panel will use these to make a judgement on whether to offer them long term contracts.