Phillip Schofield leaves This Morning after more than 20 years

TV presenter Phillip Schofield has left This Morning after more than 20 years.

The 61-year-old joined the ITV morning show in 2002. He presented his last show on Thursday.

In a statement, Schofield said he was stepping back because the programme "has become the story" and "I want to do what I can to protect the show I love".

It comes after reports that his relationship with long-term co-presenter Holly Willoughby had come under strain.

He recently returned to This Morning after taking pre-planned leave around his brother's sex abuse trial last month and The Sun reported the absence had contributed to a "cooling" of their friendship.

The statement said: "I have always been proud to cover fascinating stories on This Morning.

"But recently, This Morning itself has become the story.

"Throughout my career in TV - including the very difficult last days - I have always done my best to be honourable and kind.

"I understand that ITV has decided the current situation can't go on, and I want to do what I can to protect the show that I love."

This comes after feud rumours between him and Willoughby - who has also put out a statement regarding Schofield stepping down.

On an Instagram story, she said: "Hi everyone... It's been over 13 great years presenting This Morning with Phil and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for all of his knowledge, his experience and his humour.

"This sofa won't feel the same without him."

Read more:
Read Schofield's statement in full - and Holly's response
A timeline of the stars' relationship and rumours of a rift
Schofield praises Willoughby after friendship strain rumours

The two have been open about their close friendship over the years, including sharing pictures on social media of them while on joint holidays with their families.

Last week, Schofield addressed the feud rumours and said Willoughby was his rock, he added: "As I have said before, Holly is my rock. We're the best of friends - as always, she is an incredible support on screen, behind the scenes and on the phone."

Kevin Lygo, ITV's managing director of media and entertainment, said: "Phillip is hands down one of the best broadcasters of his generation and we thank him for his two decades worth of absolutely terrific television on the This Morning sofa.

"This Morning is made by one of the best and most diligent teams in television, who produce over 12 hours of live television each week.

"We look forward to continuing our relationship with Phillip starting with The British Soap Awards in June and a brand new peak time series to come."

Willoughby is set to return to This Morning on 5 June.

The show has been on the air for over 34 years and previously received a special recognition BAFTA in 2018 for its 30th anniversary.

Schofield and Willoughby first presented the show together in 2009.