Everyone's favourite Irish judge has quit X Factor. Yes, it's happened before, but fans were still in shock when he made the announcement on Thursday night. He's been on the judging panel for more than a decade and it's going to be a weird series without him. But who will replace Louis Walsh on X Factor?
Opening up about his departure, Walsh said in a statement: "I've had a fantastic 13 years on the X Factor but the show needs a change and I'm ready to leave. I'm looking forward to another series of Ireland's Got Talent, going back to my day job as a manager, writing my memoirs and seeing the world." While that sounds great for him, what's next for X Factor?
Well, bookies William Hill are offering odds on celebrities pipped to replace Walsh. They've got 1/100 that Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne will be returning as judges, but there's a little bit more leeway in terms of who might be joining them to make up the rest of the panel.
The front-runners are Cheryl and Rita Ora at 1/4 and 2/5 respectively, both of whom have been judges on the show previously. Cheryl joined the judging panel in 2008 and mentored two of the most high profile winners the show has seen, Alexandra Burke in the fifth series, and Joe McElderry in the sixth series. She then left the X Factor in 2011 to hop across the pond for the US version, however, that didn't work out. Meanwhile, Ora is also an X-Factor alumnus, with a tumultuous one year stretch under her belt on the ninth series.
"The odds suggest that we may see a five person panel," a William Hill spokesperson tells me, "with Simon and Sharon all but certainly returning and both Cheryl and Rita Ora odds-on to make an appearance. You then potentially have the toss of a coin between Robbie Williams and Louis Tomlinson should there be another male on the judging panel."
The bookies Ladbrokes are running slightly different odds, with Ora and Kylie Minogue looking likely to join. According to its stats, Ora is tipped to join the panel at 5/4, Minogue at 2/1, and Olly Murs at 3/1.
While Minogue has never been a judge on X Factor, she has delivered some blistering performances on the show. Meanwhile, Murs of course found fame on the show, coming in second place on the sixth series, and so it will no doubt be interesting to see what he might bring to the judging panel, from the perspective of a former contestant.
Alex Apapti of Ladbrookes had the following to tell me about which celeb is likely to join the panel next: "Rita may be the front runner, but although Olly’s been busy this year, now that the The Voice is wrapped up, we think a sensational X Factor return could be on the cards."
Finally, the online betting site Coral has Little Mix's Perrie Edwards as the most likely to take up X Factor judging duties at 6/4. The bookmaker also likes the look of Ora's chances at 7 and rate Craig David as a potential too at 2/1. "It looks as though ITV might well go for either a former judge or a former winner to attempt to revive the show, with Perrie Edwards and Rita Ora among those names being mentioned," says Coral spokesperson Harry Aitkenhead. "Leona Lewis made a guest appearance on The Voice recently and she could be another candidate to step onto the X Factor panel."
Auditions for the new series of X Factor are already underway, with the show expected to return in August. So Cowell and his team had better hurry up and make their decision. But realistically, who could ever really fill the shoes of the legend that is Louis Walsh?