Dancer Kevin Clifton quit Strictly to safeguard his romance with dance partner Stacey Dooley, friends say.
Show insiders suspect that presenter Stacey, 32, did not like the thought of Kevin, 37, being paired up with another stunning celebrity.
He partnered Louise Redknapp in the BBC dance contests before she split from her footballer husband Jamie.
In other series he danced with Good Morning Britain’s Susanna Reid and Saturdays singer Frankie Bridge.
In 2018 he won Strictly with Stacey after sweeping her off her feet – and away from her boyfriend Sam Tucknott.
A source said: “Stacey knows how intense things can get for contestants. After all, she’s been there herself.”
They added: “Kevin was bitterly disappointed to get knocked out early last year after being lumbered with Anneka Rice, who was seen as the joke act.
“He thought it may have been punishment for the negative press caused over his romance with Stacey.
“Things with Stacey have grown very serious. Kevin doesn’t want anything to ruin their relationship – or his reputation as a dancer.”
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