Phillip Schofield is fighting for his job and his friendship with Holly Willoughby today with one ultra loyal ITV boss once willing to take ‘bullets’ for him now said to be ‘fed up of clearing up his mess’.
Mr Schofield has been dogged by scandal after his paedophile brother Timothy was convicted – with a cloud also hanging over Holly after they were both accused of jumping the queue to see the Queen lying in state last year.
Rumours are now swirling that morning television’s golden couple have fallen out amid claims that Phillip failed to tell Holly that his brother was going on trial for child sex offences before he went on leave for three weeks in March and April.
And this row is now being played out publicly, with sources close to Holly claiming they now barely speak off screen. His This Morning contract is reportedly up this summer with Alison Hammond waiting in the wings to form a ‘new girl power brand’ with Holly, who wants to stay.
Kevin Lygo, ITV’s director of television, has always been close to Schofield, as have its head of daytime Emma Gormley and This Morning editor Martin Frizell. But the Mail can reveal the star has now lost the support of Frizell – who was once so staunchly loyal to him that he ‘took the bullets fired at Schofield’.
Sources close to Frizell, the husband of former GMTV host Fiona Phillips, say that he is ‘fed up of clearing up Schofield’s mess’. And one ITV insider said sarcastically last night: ‘It couldn’t happen to a nicer man.’
Speaking out: Phillip Schofield has broken his silence on claims a backstage fallout with Holly Willoughby has been rumbling on behind-the-scenes of This Morning
Phillip Schofield with editor Martin Frizell, who is said to be ‘fed up of clearing up his mess’
Controversy: Phillip said his family have been through ‘a real ordeal’ after his younger brother Timothy (pictured) was convicted of child sex offences
Holly and Phil faced growing backlash over claims they ‘skipped the queue’ at Westminster Hall to see the Queen lying in state
Last night Mr Schofield took the extraordinary step of calling Holly his ‘rock’ but admitting ‘the last few weeks haven’t been easy for us’ in a statement that is said to have blindsided his co-star because she is said to have had no idea it was coming.
The magic between Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield seems to be on the wane and ITV bosses face a crisis with Alison Hammond lined up to replace him if he leaves the show after 21 years.
Yesterday they appeared on TV together.
The extra-bright smiles, the jovial playing around, were a planned pretence, the Mail reported last night, to publicly dance off claims that their once close friendship had broken down to ‘literally nothing’.
Seconds after the music stopped, Holly nervously played with her wedding ring, unable to look her co-star in the eye as she wished her son Harry a happy 14th birthday.
Phil joined in, but there was a definite chill in the air.
Viewers noticed – to the dismay of the This Morning production team, who have been witness to the demise in the pair’s relationship.
Off-screen, the pair are said to be ‘barely speaking’.
There has been talk as to why their 14-year reign as ‘besties’ is over, but the Mail has been told that at the heart of the fall-out is a dispute over whether Schofield confided in Ms Willoughby that his brother Timothy, a police IT worker, faced charges of child sex offences.
Friends say Ms Willoughby was in the dark until Schofield took a week’s leave from the ITV daytime show to avoid the limelight while the trial took place last month – something he is at pains to deny.
Timothy Schofield was convicted of 11 offences and will be sentenced a week today.
Speaking out: Phil said the past few weeks have been incredibly tough as he issued a statement amidst the surrounding rumours of tensions brewing on set (pictured last month)
Not so long ago, the pair were undeniably close. After a National Television Awards win in 2016 they turned up for their slot seemingly hungover from celebrating the night before
Holly and Phillip (pictured in 2012) have previously spoken about their close bond and have gushed over how This Morning is a ‘family’ to them rather than just a job
Sources close to Ms Willoughby claim she is ‘deeply upset’ that she found out what was happening from a third party.
Not so long ago, the pair were undeniably close.
After a National Television Awards win in 2016 they turned up for their slot seemingly hungover from celebrating the night before.
And in 2020, when Schofield left his family and told viewers he was gay, live on This Morning, Ms Willoughby was at his side. He described her as his ‘rock’.
Her support at such a crucial time in his life makes it all the more surprising that Schofield would keep the accusations against his brother a secret.
He says Ms Willoughby was once again his ‘absolute rock’, but her friends tell a different story.
One says: ‘Holly had to find out from someone else which must have been awful for her. She has been so loyal to him.
‘It has been upsetting for her, they have been pretty inseparable for 14 years. They have been through so much together, some happy and some really tough. But now their once super close friendship is no longer.’
Yesterday, a spokesman for the 42-year-old declined to comment when asked if she was kept in the dark over the court case. Schofield said it was ‘categorically untrue’.
It was, of course, Schofield, 61, who chose Ms Willoughby to be his new sidekick back in 2009 after Fern Britton quit the show.
But now, ironically, it seems she will outstay him on the programme he has hosted for 21 years.
While Ms Willoughby has ‘no plans to leave’ according to sources close to her, rumours at ITV suggest Schofield may not return to the show after the summer.
Removed: Other fans noted that Holly previously had Phillip’s name tagged in her Twitter bio and the handle was now removed in favour of a list of career highlights. Despite the speculation, it cannot be clarified when the change was made
It is thought his contract runs out and talk among executives is that it will not be renewed. Until now, Schofield has had the backing of the upper echelons of the channel.
Recent controversies included his refusal to address jumping the queue to see the late Queen laying in state last September.
One source said: ‘Martin and Phil were once so close, a real team. Martin is an old-fashioned television man who believes in loyalty but things have changed.’
Only last week Frizell was seen sitting in the canteen ‘with a face like thunder’ while the show was on air. Usually, sources say, he would be ‘jumping up and down in the gallery and in the studio’.
So what next for the show launched in 1988 and fronted by Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan? Alison Hammond, of course.
ITV bosses can’t get enough of the presenter, who they, for years, relegated to the showbiz beat.
She is to be front and centre of their 35th birthday celebrations in October and is tipped to join Ms Willoughby as a full-time host of the programme.
ITV chiefs, including Frizell, were pleased with how the two hosted the show in March while Schofield took his leave and think it is a ‘super interesting’ idea to follow in Strictly’s footsteps and have two female presenters.
As for Ms Willoughby, she has grown increasingly close to Ms Hammond.
The two recently enjoyed a night out together, with Ms Willoughby introducing the former Big Brother star, 48, to her famous friends including Emma Bunton and Nicole Appleton.
A source said: ‘Perhaps Holly and Alison are creating their new girl power brand.’
And one thing is for certain, Schofield won’t be part of it. According to one ITV insider: ‘It couldn’t happen to a nicer man.’