Ian ‘H’ Watkins will be partnered with Matt Evers on the upcoming series of Dancing on Ice, making them the show’s first ever same-sex dance couple.
The 43-year-old former Steps star, who is openly gay, is set to make history on the ITV ice dancing competition when it airs next year, and he’s been partnered with a male professional after reportedly making the request himself.
A source told MailOnline: ‘After conversations with the Dancing on Ice production team, H enquired as to the possibility of being paired with a male professional skater.
History: Ian ‘H’ Watkins will be part of Dancing On Ice’s first ever same-sex partnership on the show’s upcoming series. Pictured in rehearsals with Christopher Dean and Jayne Torvill
‘Dancing on Ice were fully supportive of a same-sex partnership and as such this year H will be paired with Matt Evers.’
H is set to be partnered with American Matt, also 43, who has been skating on the show since it began in 2006 and came out as gay in 2018.
When contacted by MailOnline for comment, a representative for Dancing On Ice said: ‘We won’t be commenting on speculation around the Dancing on Ice pairings until closer to the new series in 2020.’
Partner: The former Steps star, 43, will be partnered with US professional Matt Evers, also 43
Request: A source told MailOnline of the pairing, ‘H enquired as to the possibility of being paired with a male professional skater… Dancing on Ice were fully supportive’
Matt has won the show once in 2008 when he was paired with Suzanne Shaw, and came second with Jorgie Porter in 2012, and third alongside Bonnie Langford during the shows first series.
This year, he was partnered with Gemma Collins, and they finished in eighth place.
The move to have a same-sex dancing duo means that Dancing On Ice will have beaten rival show Strictly Come Dancing, which airs on BBC One.
A BBC source is said to have claimed that after years of campaigning by viewers and judge Craig Revel-Horwood, producers have relented after seeing how popular pairings have been on international versions of the show.
Rival: Bosses at rival show Strictly Come Dancing are reportedly going to allow same-sex couples to compete next series (pictured above, a same-sex professional routine last year)
The source explained to The Mirror that bosses have agreed to relax the rules on same-sex couples after seeing how well they were embraced overseas.
They said: ‘Bosses have said while there aren’t any same sex pairings in this series, they’d definitely be open to it, given the right combination of celebs and dancers. The show’s always been inclusive and reflects modern Britain.
‘Having previously thought it was unnecessary, it has dawned on people at the BBC that the original British show looks a bit backwards in not having embraced the notion of a same-sex couple.’
The source then added that the decision was also made following the success of drag act Courtney Act – real name Shane Jenek – when she was paired with male professional dancer Josh Keefe on Dancing With The Stars Australia.
Strong support: Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood has also long supported the discussion around including same-sex couples on his hit BBC show
‘It could well be that we follow the Aussie model and go for a charismatic drag act, because Courtney Act proved hugely popular with traditionally conservative Australian viewers.’
When contacted by MailOnline a representative for Strictly Come Dancing said: ‘Strictly Come Dancing is an inclusive show and we are proud to have featured same sex dancing amongst the professional dancers in group numbers in previous series.
‘We are completely open to the prospect of including same sex pairings between our celebrities and professional dancers in the future, should the opportunity arise.’
The decision comes after years of campaigning by fans for same-sex couples, which proved partially successful last year when the professional dancers delivered a powerful same-sex routine.
First: In 2010, Israel’s version of Strictly became the first in the franchise to introduce same-sex couples, when TV presenter Gili Shem Tov was partnered with Dorit Milman
Several former contestants have also supported the idea, with Dr. Ranj Singh saying last year: ‘I would love to dance with a same-sex partner.’
Reverend Richard Coles also said in 2017 that it made ‘no sense that anybody resists the idea’.
It comes after Courtney shared her disappointment that Strictly was yet to embrace same-sex couples in the UK.
Speaking at Edinburgh Fringe, Courtney said: ‘It shocks me that it hasn’t happened in the UK – the institution of ballroom dancing is being used as an excuse. They’re hiding behind that.
Rise to fame: Ian shot to fame as member of pop ban Steps, alongside (L-R) Lisa Scott Lee, Faye Tozer, and Lee Latchford Evans. Pictured in October 1999
‘Maybe the audience skews older and they think the viewers wouldn’t like it. But it needs to happen – people will be surprised how positively it is received.’
Judge Craig has also campaigned for the pairings, saying to The Mirror: ‘I think more and more people want it – maybe the BBC will be brave enough one day to do it.’
In 2010, Israel’s version of Strictly became the first in the franchise to introduce same-sex couples, when TV presenter Gili Shem Tov was partnered with professional dancer Dorit Milman.
The Dancing on Ice pairs will officially be revealed in a special Christmas edition, ahead of the series premiere in January.
This series, which will be hosted by returning TV personalities Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, John Barrowman will replace Jason Gardiner on the judging panel.
Return: This series, which will be hosted by returning TV personalities Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, will return for a Christmas edition before the January competition