John Francome on life after Channel 4 racing

john francome leaves channel 4 racing

He will be missed



There is one person who is not sorry to see the back of John Francome on Channel 4 racing.

His name is… John Francome!

Whereas most spectators of televised racing agree that ‘Francs’ will be missed, the man himself will not miss being on TV.

“There’s only so many times you can say ‘that’s a nice horse’” says the former champion jockey.

Today, Saturday, was his final appearance on Channel 4 racing. He decided to go once the long time producers of the coverage, Highflyer Productions, lost the contract to televise live racing and the ‘Morning Line’ programme.

It was a big blow to a man I have been acquainted with since 1980. A man who works behind the cameras. Little do terrestrial TV viewers know it, but they should be very grateful to one Andrew Franklin, a very good friend of Francome, and an even better friend of racing.

Along with John Fairley, a former TV boss of mine, Franklin has ensured that there has been racing on Channel 4 for many years. And, crucially for me, not just the glamour meetings. But meetings at the likes of a murky Musselburgh or a rainy Redcar.

Unlike the BBC, who increasingly cherry picked ‘posh’ meetings, only to turn them into fashion shows interspersed with the odd race. Before, disgracefully, turning their licence fee paid for back on the sport altogether.

And Andrew Franklin is the reason John Francome stayed with Channel 4 racing as long as he did.

He said: “I would have packed up three years ago were it not for Andrew. I feel sorry for Andrew as I feel Channel 4 got the crown jewels on the back of programmes he had been making. He was short changed. He should have been given the chance to produce Royal Ascot and the Grand National.”

The new production company did ask Francome to stay on. But he knew he had said all he could say about televised racing.

Francome told Nicholas Godfrey of the Racing Post: “Now and again something will pop up and you feel you’ve contributed something.

“But there are some people you have to interview who I couldn’t give a damn if they dropped down dead.

“Most trainers are fine, like Paul Nicholls and Philip Hobbs, but every now and again there’s some people who are appalling. I’d just want to say to some of them, ‘look, you’re just an animal trainer, you haven’t invented a rocket or cured measles but you’ve got a horse probably anyone could have trained and here you are being a tosser’. It’s quite extraordinary.”

I do know who Francs is referring to. But my lips are sealed!

But then Francome is not short of an opinion on most subjects. I recall him putting certain people in their place regarding the safety issues surrounding the Grand National. Then there was the furore over the use of the whip. And only he could have got away with what he has said live on air about child murderers and the state of Britain today.

He makes no apology for calling a spade a shovel.

Francome said: “It would be boring if you didn’t say what you think. We’re too politically correct these days. How can you go through life not having an opinion. I’ve got an opinion on everything.

“I’ve got no kids but I know exactly what needs doing with them.”

The channel 4 racing team will change in January

Changes coming to the Morning Line



So what next for the racing man so many women of my acquaintance would like to go the distance with?

Well he has taken over from the late, great Lord John Oaksey as president of the Injured Jockeys Fund and I cannot think of a better person for that vital role. He is never happier than when around horses and jockeys.

He says: “I am a hands on person. I enjoy being my own boss. Since I packed up as a jockey never once have wished I was still riding. It must be awful getting up and not wanting to go to work and I have been lucky because I cannot remember that happening to me.

“I was out laying bricks and I am far happier doing that. If someone said to me, do you want to sit down and talk about horses all afternoon or do you want to get the concrete mixer going or hang a couple of doors? – it’s a no brainer for me.”

Another reason why women love him!

As ‘Francs’ signed off today by rightly paying tribute to all the team he has worked with “these past 27 years” he did so in typical fashion. He said thanks to “all the lads” he had worked with.

He’ll be kicking himself right now for not saying lads and lassies. But not for too long. As he says himself, he’s never been politically correct. And thank heavens for that.

But all you need to know about a TV presenter is if the crew like him or her. And the team who have produced racing coverage for Channel 4 love John Francome.

They will miss him. So shall we.

 

 


 

Comments

  1. eric.pidwell says:

    Fantastic jockey, great channel 4 presenter…love channel 4 racing but will sadly miss johns down to earth opinion and no nonsense attitude…Keep writing those great racing thrillers as well.

  2. I liked Francome. I enjoyed listening to his chat. told us how it was. He gave me some great tips which helped. Good look John.

  3. Barrie Betts says:

    Have not seen Francs for long time but had many a good evening with him and the Steve Ecc~ also I was living in Dubai when UK racing was first broadcasting there — what Franc and mates did not realise that when the channel went to the commercials in UK cameras and sound kept going in Dubai -never laughed so much as when the guys thought no one could hear or see them the comments they made on some of the good looking girls that the cameras went on to -I did let them know via Tommo and soon after Dubai put just music on during the UK commercial breaks — think there was a touch of embarrasment Ah good days.

  4. its a shame about jonny francome not working on ch4 racing any more his knogledge was second to none and was a class jockey in his day,i wish him well.

  5. I have had a love affair with horse racing for more than forty years and have gone as far as setting my alarm on a boozy Friday night so I wouldn’t miss Morning Line but ,I can’t make myself watch more than one race .I haven’t seen any of Cheltenham.The old channel 4 team were my family. This is one of many turning points in my life. I’m sure you would be justified in saying “Who cares?” No one asked but ,viewers pay the wages of all involved in racing and if it is made distant and uninteresting those wages will be impinged upon. As will the sport that we love. I also concur with John Francome’s views about the “Prima Donnas” as opposed to the good guys who support the game ..

    • I understand what you mean about a family Butch. That doesn’t come about overnight. It took years to build up the family feel of the old C4 Racing team. John Francome was always going to be missed but it was his decision to leave once the production company run by a good friend of his lost the contract to produce the coverage after many years of doing so. As a viewer I miss Francs as does everyone else. But I think he made the right decision to go. He would have been shuffled around too often by the new production company and Francs would not have had the patience for that.
      Viewers pay wages of BBC staff via the licence fee. And you could argue that you pay wages when you go out to buy some corn flakes though, of course, with C4 and ITV we do not directly pay their wages.
      I thought the C4 coverage of the Cheltenham Festival was excellent. The racing part. I have my reservations about the new look Morning Line which feels as cold as guests who have been on it say the studio is. I will be writing a post about all this soon. Look out for it. Thank you for your feedback. VG

  6. Mel Durban says:

    Please bring back the old team. Saturday mornings use to be such a treat now its so boring !! We miss John Francome.

    • Hello Mel. Do read my reply to others re this issue. I will say that the Morning Line has ceased to be a must watch programme for me and, judging from the viewing figures, many others. I did think that the coverage of the actual racing during Cheltenham was superb. I will be writing a post about my own thoughts on the new look C4 racing coverage.

  7. Neil Harris says:

    At least Alice Plunkett was back on Saturday. Emma Ramsden should not be on at all, nevermind during the National Hunt season.

  8. Steve Pritchard says:

    People will always Love Racing with or without John Francome. It’s the Great Horses The Great Jockeys the Great Boys and Girls who Look after horses the Great Owners of horses. The Great Sponsors. Thease are the ingredients that make Racing work The people who look after the Tracks and Facilities. Racing will survive without people who want to be Difficult like JF ( you see the name is smaller alredy). People will always criticise New ideas but they will be the Losers as you must move on in the Modern world

  9. Steve Pritchard says:

    I am always wary of people who slag off the People who made their name it’s like a footballer who made a lot of money and then says club he played for is no good. John Francome was given a super position on television every week a position many racing people would love. He must have made a lot of Money. How Much ? Older women liked him as thier husbands ran off with a younger one. Maybe he should star in a new Movie. Grumpy Old Men 2. Laying bricks is not rocket science but if you like building Toilets that’s fine as you are protecting what you are throwing at people Be Grateful what people gave you. I found you Boring sounding like comedian Jethrow with Bad jokes. Stay with your Bricks but for sure your One Brick Short of a Load

  10. Steve Pritchard says:

    I have known John Francome from when he was Show jumping. Was a good friend then. Did not see him for a long time untill i bumped into him at Olympia Christmas show 2 years ago. Said hello to him and he blanked me out typical of someone with too much fame. I know many famous people in horses and music and most not like this. Always watch racing ,live in Germany as horse agent and Rock singer. Love People who remember where they come from

  11. jim hamilton says:

    I really miss the old team, Tommo was my favourite, he had agreat rappore with the punters, especially on a big race day ive seen him many times at Newcastle on Plate day, he used to get the crowd going, talk to young jockeys and new trainers and find out interesting facts about the horses running, the track and . about various people, he had a fantastic knowledge about the game . Alister down was fantastic as was Mike Cattermole, it was a pity to break up a great team. The new line up isnt a patch on the old team, i miss them.

  12. denis sullivan says:

    this squad not a patch on old team,Saturday afternoon not the same.

  13. Valerie Fahey says:

    I shall miss John and all the team when watching the racing .

    • you are not alone Valerie. Men and women alike are missing Francs. But it was his decision to quit now. Dare say the new look will grow on us.

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