10/04/2019 17:06 BST | Updated 11/04/2019 09:58 BST

Darcey Bussell: 12 Early Runners And Riders Who Could Replace Judge On Strictly Come Dancing

Just who will we see sitting alongside Bruno, Shirley and Craig come the autumn?

Following the news Darcey Bussell has stepped down as a Strictly Come Dancing judge after seven years, attention has quickly turned to who will replace her on the BBC show. 

With the new series still a way off, it’s likely we’re set for months of speculation as to who will sit alongside Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli when it returns to our screens. 

With that in mind, we take a look at the early runners and riders who would be a shoo-in for one of the biggest jobs in TV...

Karen Hardy

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Karen made no secret of wanting the Head Judge spot when Len Goodman stepped down from the panel – and she’s more than qualified too. 

She appeared as a professional dancer from 2005 to 2009, winning with partner Mark Ramprakash in the fourth series.

She remains part of the Strictly family to this day, regularly appearing as a choreography expert on It Takes Two, and has also filled in for some of the judges on the Strictly live tour in the past. 

Arlene Phillips

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Arlene was one of the original judges on Strictly when the show started in 2004, but she found herself axed from the panel in 2009 and replaced with former contestant Alesha Dixon, sparking an ageism row. 

After the controversy died down, Arlene has always said she would be open to returning to the show, and was even linked to her old spot on the panel when Len retired. 

Last year, the show also offered an olive branch to Arlene when she was invited to choreograph a group routine, so could her renewed relationship with show bosses pave the way for her return?

Anton Du Beke

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For many years now, Strictly’s longest-serving pro dancer Anton has been linked with a spot on the judging panel, but he has so far been refused a promotion 

He’s come close to landing the gig once before though, going head-to-head with former pro Brendan Cole for Len Goodman’s old job, but they both eventually lost out to Shirley Ballas. 

While rumours will no doubt immediately link him to the job once again, it’s worth noting that Anton has already been confirmed as a pro dancer for his 17th consecutive series. 

Oti Mabuse

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Oti made the leap from pro dancer to judge earlier this year when she took up a coaching spot on The Greatest Dancer alongside Cheryl and Matthew Morrison. 

While the series was met with mixed reviews, critics and viewers alike agreed that Oti was the best thing about the show, having also become a fan favourite on Strictly since joining as a pro in 2015. 

After the announcement Darcey was leaving, many people on social media also named her as the best possible replacement, and we have to say, we’re inclined to agree. 

Helen Richey

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Australian-born ballroom champion Helen was one of the names previously linked to a Strictly judging role, after being a main stay on the Aussie version, where she judged 15 series before the show was axed in 2015. 

While it has since been brought back (with Craig Revel Horwood on the panel, no less), Helen has not returned, meaning she has a gap in her work schedule that Strictly could fill nicely. 

Gary Edwards

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Another name that was linked to Len’s old job was dancer Gary Edwards, who is also known as The Ballroom Giant, and is likely to be mentioned when it comes to hunting for Darcey’s replacement. 

The 50-year-old from Romford, Essex, is one of the world’s most experienced judges having won more than 30 international titles, and even went on This Morning to say how much he wanted a job on Strictly after Len’s departure.

Gary also has some TV experience already, appearing on the All Access Internet Show and Dancing With The Stars in the US, and is also good pals with one of the Strictly judges, Bruno Tonioli. 

Joanne Clifton

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Kevin Clifton’s sister Joanne established herself as one of the most popular pros when she joined Strictly in 2014 – something that only heightened when she won the 15th series with Ore Oduba. 

While she left everyone gutted when she stepped down ahead of the 2017 series, Joanne has remained familiar to fans as she has continued to make regular appearances on spin-off It Takes Two.

While we probably wouldn’t count Joanne as a massive contender for a spot on the panel given she’s now enjoying a stage career, we’d love to see the Clifton family dynamic shift with her judging her brother and former sister-in-law, Karen. 

Alfonso Ribeiro

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The former Fresh Prince Of Bel Air star made quite the impression when he stood in for Bruno Tonioli on last year’s series

While initially eyebrows were raised when he was announced as a guest judge, viewers were won round with this critiques and sense of humour. 

He’s also got plenty of experience too, having won the American version of the show, Dancing With The Stars in 2014, where he has also returned as a guest judge on multiple occasions. 

Len Goodman

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Shirley has been a brilliant replacement for Len since joining Strictly 2017, but we have to admit, there’s still a part of us that misses Grumpy old Goodman. 

So then, how amazing would it be to see two ballroom titans like Len and Shirley sat alongside one another on the panel?

Len has gone on the record to say how happy he is with retirement since leaving Strictly, but could bosses somehow manage to tempt him back?

Ian Waite 

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Iain served as a pro dancer for the first seven series of Strictly, and has continued to have a close relationship with the show thanks to a regular slot on spin-off It Takes Two. 

While he doesn’t seem to have made a play for a judging spot in the past, Len Goodman previously named him as one of four people he most wanted to see replace him.

While this obviously never came into fruition, could the BBC revisit Len’s advice?

Jason Gilkison

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Jason has worked behind the cameras on Strictly for a number of years now, serving as the show’s chief choreographer .

He was touted as a possible new judge back in 2018, having previously been a panellist on the Australian version of So You Think You Can Dance?. 

While he ultimately remained in his off-screen role, could now be his time to step into the Strictly spotlight?

Brendan Cole

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Given Brendan was axed as a pro dancer last year amid a rumoured feud with Shirley, we can’t see this one happening – even if he really wanted it to. 

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