STRICTLY bosses have been accused of conning viewers by letting some celebs “choose” their dance partners months before the opening night.
The “big reveal” — broadcast on BBC1 earlier tonight — is meant to be the first time stars discover who will be teaching them.
Pairings this year include Anneka Rice and Kevin Clifton; James Cracknell and Luba Mushtuk; Emma Barton and Anton Du Beke; and Catherine Tyldesley and Johannes Radebe.
But The Sun on Sunday can reveal some deals are struck up to four months before the show is recorded.
Multiple sources say that celebs, agents and Strictly chiefs often thrash out the agreements while negotiating the contracts.
One insider said: “This is complete smoke and mirrors — the 12million viewers are being hoodwinked to some extent.
“Celebrities try to choose their dancers months before, often based on who they think is the best and who will take them the furthest in the series.
“There is a system in place where producers liaise over who people want. It’s all hidden in plain sight. The bigger the star, the higher up in the pecking order they will be.”
Another source said: “The celebrities — especially the big ones — make their choices clear and bosses make it happen. It is as simple as that.
“If the system were not in place, the show would not have so many big names.”
Stars thought to have benefited include 2018’s Stacey Dooley and 2016’s Will Young.
Documentary maker Stacey, 32, was negotiating a £250,000 “Golden Handcuffs” deal with the Beeb at the same time as her Strictly deal.
The source said: “She made it clear she wanted to dance with Kevin (Clifton), and bosses made it happen. It’s seen as a small price to pay for bagging that celeb.”
Stacey and Kevin went on to win and are now a couple.
Meanwhile Pop Idol winner Will Young, 40. was paired with Karen Clifton — Kevin’s ex — in 2016. At the “big reveal” they both looked surprised despite Will making it clear that he wanted Karen.
The singer, who has anxiety issues, thought she would help to calm him. He ended up walking out after three weeks.
A source said: “Will picked Karen at least four months before it was revealed on TV.
“He had met her and she made him feel comfortable.”
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In 2013 Aljaz Skorjanec — paired with Abbey Clancy — and Pasha Kovalev, matched with Rachel Riley, are said to have known beforehand.
Last night the BBC said it was “categorically untrue” that stars were allowed to choose.
A spokesman added: “Even if preferences are voiced, these are not taken into consideration and neither celebs nor dancers find out their partner before the launch show.”