The Strictly Come Dancing ‘ageism’ row rages on following reports that the show has axed its oldest female professional dancer.

Karen Hardy, 39, who won the show in 2006 with cricketer Mark Ramprakash, and other professionals are being replaced by younger dancers, according to The Mirror.

The news comes after it was revealed that 2007 winner Alesha Dixon would be replacing Arlene Phillips on the judging panel of the BBC1 show.

The decision resulted in the BBC receiving thousands of complaints from Strictly fans claiming that 66-year-old dance expert Arlene had simply been replaced by a ‘younger model’.

A source told the paper: “Karen is gone and it is no surprise seeing what is happening to older females at the BBC.

“As far as the bosses are concerned they are keeping things fresh and exciting, but some may see it as ageism.

“Despite Karen being one of the best dancers she is gone, and it seems to be another sign that bosses want to make the series young to try to take some of the X Factor audience.”

Popular Karen is Strictly’s oldest competitor aside from 43-year-old Anton Du Beke.

Among the new dancers joining the show will be 25-year-old Lithuanian Katya Virshilas and Natalie Lowe, 28, from Australia.

It’s thought that New Zealand dancer Hayley Holt will also not be taking part in the new series of Strictly, which airs on BBC1 in the autumn.