FURIOUS Strictly Come Dancing fans have blasted the "sexist" BBC after judge Arlene Phillips was axed.
Legendary choreographer Arlene, 66, was booted off the panel to make way for 2007 champ Alesha Dixon, 30.
But the BBC has been forced to defend itself in a statement after its website was swamped with complaints from fans.
Some 300 messages have been left on the Points Of View forums since singer Alesha was officially unveiled as Arlene's successor on Thursday.
One user, called Mrs Slocombe's cat, insisted host Bruce Forsyth, 81, and judge Len Goodman, 65, would never have been treated like Arlene.
The fan wrote: "The decision to replace Arlene is OK - but choosing Alesha is ridiculous. It's an attempt to chase X Factor ratings. "If anyone doesn't think this is sexist ask yourself, 'Would the BBC have replaced Bruce with Gethin Jones or replaced Len with Peter Andre?' Of course not."
Other fans said that the Beeb was trying to re-create X Factor's successful move of getting Cheryl Cole, 26, to replace older judge Sharon Osbourne, 56.
And they were furious that Arlene had been replaced by a younger, less qualified person on the judging panel of the next series, which begins in September.
Website user witch-of-oz said of Alesha: "She is not a dancer or choreographer. As usual, the BBC gets it wrong.
"I have just had a look at another forum of SCD fans and there isn't one post in favour of Alesha."
One fan calling herself groovyoldwoman wrote: "It won't be the same - I think they've shot themselves in the foot this time."
And another named BHP simply wrote: "Words almost fail me at this stupid decision."
The BBC was unable to give a final figure for the number of angry messages it had received.
But a spokesman confirmed: "We have received complaints from viewers who are unhappy about the reports that Arlene Phillips will not be returning as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing this year." Alesha has also upset her own fans by taking the job - because she has had to cancel several dates of her autumn tour so she can fulfil her Strictly commitments.
One user called coollady wrote on her website: "Shame on you Alesha for taking this job from another woman who is much better qualified, just because you are younger.
"And cancelling tour dates? I was a fan but am now bitterly disappointed in your behaviour."
Choreographer Arlene has now been given a job on The One Show as their Strictly expert.
The BBC posted the following response on their website to explain their decision to fans.
It reads: "We wanted to review Strictly Come Dancing's format this year as we felt it was the right time to do so. Part of that process was reviewing the judging panel. "We decided it would be a good idea to bring in someone like Alesha, who adds a new voice to the judging panel and has an insight into what the dancers go through.
"We are very grateful for Arlene's six years on the show and are delighted she will be remaining close to the family with her new role as The One Show's resident Strictly expert."