Classic-winning trainer Mark Johnston has highlighted the huge gulf in opinions facing ITV when it takes over coverage of British racing next year by urging the broadcaster to “get rid of all coverage of betting”.
And he warned ITV to heed the lesson of Top Gear’s troubled relaunch by making the programme “interesting”.
“When the new Top Gear came along everybody expected it would be completely different,” Johnston said yesterday. “I was dumbfounded when I saw that it was just the same format with a couple of tweaks and different presenters.
“It is a big lesson for ITV. I am absolutely convinced there was nothing wrong with the new presenters on Top Gear. I used to watch it religiously and latterly I got bored with it, it had become stale.”
ITV takes over the contract to show racing from January 1, with Ed Chamberlin already announced as the main presenter.
And Johnston warned: “I would say to them, ‘Make it interesting’. Top Gear appealed to the whole family and they should be aiming to produce a programme that has appeal for all.
“They should get rid of all the coverage of betting. I totally understand the relationship between racing and betting, but the coverage is ridiculous and it’s bad for both industries.
“You can watch hours of football coverage on television and never hear betting mentioned once, but millions of people do bet on football because they have an opinion on it. Racing’s viewers are encouraged to listen to other people’s opinions, tips basically.”
With ITV’s team still to be announced, Johnston voiced support for Derek Thompson, who lost his position with Channel 4 in 2012.
“Everybody has been saying Matt Chapman is going to get it and I can fully understand that,” he said.
“He’s very entertaining. But I have always said that Tommo gets a huge amount of stick but is one of the most professional interviewers out there.
“As an interviewee, I would still rate him number one, he gets the best out of his subject. No matter who you give him, he takes an interest in the subject and gets the best out of them. He has always been greatly underrated and they are the worse without him.”