The announcement that Shirley Ballas has been chosen to take Len Goodman’s place as Head Judge on the Strictly Come Dancing panel seems to have left one veteran dancer on the show more than a little disgruntled.
According to a report by The Sun, Anton Du Beke, who was tipped for the position, is upset about the decision to choose Shirley over him – and feels that it’s down to “positive discrimination”.
Reportedly, Anton believed that the panel needed a male to directly replace the gap Len left, and that choosing a woman instead in order to fulfil a “diversity and inclusion strategy”, might be a risky formula.
A friend allegedly told The Sun, “Anton would never say anything negative publicly about being overlooked for the role, but he and everyone in his inner circle has been left gutted by the Beeb’s decision.”
The friend continued to say that Anton believes the panel should have remained as three men, one woman, given the success of the show’s judges already. The source continued, “He felt the panel needed a British bloke, a straight swap for Len. It’s a risk changing such a successful formula.
Anton has been a professional dancer on Strictly ever since it began back in 2004. The ballroom dancer is a hot favourite with fans, which might explain why the decision to choose Shirley instead has come as a surprise.
Anton also hoped for the chance to prove himself beyond his dancing capabilities with the role, according to the source, who continued, “It’s also been said that he’s being looked down on as ‘just a dancer’ when really there’s much more to him than that.”
Speaking on Lorraine in March, Anton himself addressed the rumours, saying, “From my own personal opinion, I think it’s important that they have a ballroom person on the panel. Just for balance.”
Brendan Cole was another popular professional dancer who was lined up as favourite for the role, but, according to The Sun, Shirley beat out the both of them in screen tests to win the position.
It was confirmed early May that Shirley, the ‘Queen of Latin’, would be joining the panel when its 15th season begins in September.