Just What Is Going On With The Strictly Come Dancing Judges?

With various reports about the judges making headlines in recent weeks, here's what we know about what the panel could look like this year.
Strictly judges Shirley Ballas, Anton Du Beke, Craig Revel Horwood and Mosti Mabuse
Strictly judges Shirley Ballas, Anton Du Beke, Craig Revel Horwood and Mosti Mabuse

It might seem way too early in the year to be discussing Strictly Come Dancing, but the show has already been making headlines thanks so some rumoured unrest among the judging panel.

Here’s what you need to know...

Why is everyone talking about the Strictly Come Dancing judges?

There has been speculation that this year could see some changes on the Strictly panel, which first began when head judge Shirley Ballas hinted she might not return.

Last month, Shirley said the intense trolling she received during last year’s series had taken its toll, and had made her consider whether she’d go back.

Admitting she had been “struggling” in 2022, Shirley told The Mirror: “I felt the abuse snowballed out of control and impacted me in such a negative way....

“And that was an all-time low since I joined the show – it was the most negativity I’d ever experienced.”

Asked if she considered quitting, Shirley replied: “It was a difficult series, I’ll leave it at that...

“Will I go back to Strictly? I always take one step at a time,” she said.

However, she walked those comments back somewhat during an appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show last week, suggesting negotiations were were currently taking place between her team and the BBC.

“Well… I do believe it’s in the process. Is that the right way to say it? Yes.. their people are talking to my people,” she told the chat show host.

Shirley confirmed she was in negotiation to return to Strictly during an appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show
Shirley confirmed she was in negotiation to return to Strictly during an appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show
Brian J Ritchie/Hotsauce/Shutterstock

Since the, The Sun has claimed that Shirley and her fellow judges Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Anton Du Beke are pushing for a pay rise to seal their returns.

The paper claimed the judges are chasing an 11 per cent increase, which is above the rate of inflation.

They quoted an unnamed source who claimed that things had apparently reached somewhat of a “stand off”, with the BBC refusing to bow to the demands due to the current cost of living crisis and the freeze the government imposed on the BBC licence fee last year.

However, these reports have not been verified.

Why is this all happening now?

While the new series of Strictly Come Dancing is still six months away, people work on the production of the show all year round.

As well as beginning conversations with some potential celebrity contestants, bosses also start confirming the line-up of professional dancers, judges and presenters early doors – as HuffPost UK learned last year when we ran our Backstage At The Ballroom series, speaking to those who work behind the scenes of the show.

Last year, for example, the judging line-up was confirmed in mid-May, with the announcement Anton was returning for his second full series as a judge.

The Strictly judges during last year's series
The Strictly judges during last year's series
Guy Levy/BBC via PA Media

We’ve also seen Rylan Clark depart Strictly spin-off show It Takes Two this week, proving that bosses are starting to shape what this year’s series will look like.

What have the judges said?

After The Sun’s story about the judges’ reported pay dispute came out this week, HuffPost UK contacted representatives for Strictly Come Dancing, Shirley Ballas, Motsi Mabuse, Craig Revel Horwood and Anton Du Beke for comment, but did not receive any responses.

However, it is highly unlikely any party would speak out on the specifics of the negotiations, as it is pretty standard procedure that organisations or individuals do not comment on artists’ contracts.

So, what next?

While it’s difficult to say who will be back on the judging panel this year until an official announcement is made, Strictly’s enduring popularity has proved that no individual is bigger than the show.

Having survived many other changes to the judging line-up over the years – the most recent of which saw Anton replace original judge Bruno Tonioli – whatever happens, we can all be sure that the nation’s favourite show will continue to sparkle when it returns in the autumn.


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