Shirley Ballas declared "the show must go on" without scandal-hit Giovanni Pernice.

Shirley Ballas insists Strictly has to continue regardless of whether or not Giovanni Pernice takes part as she teases a 'brilliant' series

Shirley Ballas insists Strictly has to continue regardless of whether or not Giovanni Pernice takes part as she teases a 'brilliant' series

The head judge of the BBC One Latin and ballroom show insists this year's series will be "brilliant" despite the 33-year-old Italian - who was popular with viewers - not taking part amid allegations of "threatening and abusive behaviour" towards his former partners on the show

Speaking to The Sun at the TRIC Awards at Grosvenor House in London on Tuesday (25.06.24), she said: "You know what the show goes on...

"It will go on. It’s a brilliant series this year - all the boys and girls will be getting ready with all their different numbers."

Amid fears fans of Giovanni will abandon the show, she insisted: "Everyone has a choice what they want to do."

Bosses are said to have put a ban on public discussions of the controversy, due to fears it could overshadow the 20th anniversary, but professional dancer Michelle Tsiakkas, 28, stood up for her friend and colleague.

She told the outlet at the ceremony: "We're sad about losing Giovanni - we are a big family at the end of the day, so we just want to continue being that family and supporting each other.

"Of course sometimes unfortunate situations happen."

One professional dancer recently told The Sun: "I’m not allowed to comment. We’ve been told not to talk about it until the official 'Strictly' statement.”

A source added: "When [the] claims first came to light no one could have foreseen the drama would still be raging so ferociously six months later.

"We’re just a few weeks away from the 2024 cast reveal and bosses are worried the scandal is now dangerously close to overshadowing the new series.

"A lot of work has gone into it as it’s the 20th anniversary, and now — still — all anyone talks about is Giovanni.

"Bosses hope gagging the cast will help.

"It will require some fancy footwork, but the cast have all been trained on how to handle questioning and politely sidestep difficult topics."

Shirley, 63, already defended Giovanni.

She told the Daily Mirror newspaper: "He has always been to me, and I will make that clear, to me, a perfect gentleman.

"My feeling for Giovanni is, let them do this investigation or whatever it is they are doing, and the truth will come out.

"I have never ever, ever experienced any ill will or bad feeling or bad sportsmanship or rudeness from him."

Shirley admitted she can only reflect on her "own perspective", and she refused to pass judgement until she knows "100 percent it is true".

She said: "You know, I can only talk from my own perspective. I have known Giovanni for 10 years. I know he is a hard worker. He wants the people to do the very best that they can do.

"Obviously in my life I was bullied a lot. I don't condone bullying on any path but also, I don't believe gossip because things get escalated and they are blown way out of all proportion and it can turn into a great big snowball.

"So we don't judge anybody until I know absolutely 100 percent. I won't pass on the gossip unless I know 100 percent it is true. He will be missed."

Giovanni has denied all allegations.