Rebekah Vardy, wife of Leicester City footballer Jamie Vardy, against Coleen Rooney, married since 2008 to former Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, opened a libel trial in London on 9 May. It concerns an affair that began in October 2019, when Rooney accused Rebekah Vardy of giving private information about her to the tabloid. The Sun, accusations that she always denied and indeed considered defamatory.
These days the trial is very popular with British TV and newspapers, especially the tabloid ones, which always give a lot of attention to the gossip events involving sportsmen and famous people. Since the 2000s, in particular, the British tabloids have created a sort of literary genre around the news and gossip about the footballers’ companions, which they call – with a meaning judged by many sexist – WAGs (“wives and girlfriend” ). Over the years the scandals – often of a sexual nature, but not only – that have developed in the environment of the players of the English national team, involving their partners, have been various and always followed with great attention by the tabloids. Sometimes the women involved in these stories craved fame and media coverage, in other cases they were pulled into their midst in spite of themselves.
In October 2019, Coleen Rooney – now 36 – wrote a post on Twitter claiming that for some time someone he trusted had “systematically” switched to Sun information about you, your friends and family, without your permission and without your knowledge. Rooney suspected they came from the things she shared on her private Instagram account, reserved for acquaintances only, and after some kind of trap she said she had identified an alleged culprit: Rebekah Vardy.
Rooney had in fact blocked all profiles that followed her except hers, and then had shared a series of Stories with invented information that had later actually been published in the Sun. Rooney then saved the Stories and took screenshots that, according to him, “clearly showed” that they had only been seen by one person, from Rebekah Vardy’s account.
Vardy, now 40, denied giving any information about Rooney to reporters and claimed that his Instagram profile had been hacked. Rooney’s tweet, however, went viral, and due to the trap she had devised to find out who was behind the leak she was nicknamed “Wagatha Christie”, a union of WAGs and the name of the famous mystery writer.
This has been a burden in my life for a few years now and finally I have got to the bottom of it …… pic.twitter.com/0YqJAoXuK1
– Coleen Rooney (@ColeenRoo) October 9, 2019
To be considered “the first WAG” is Victoria Beckham of the Spice Girls, also known as Posh Spice and wife of former England captain David Beckham. Like many other wives and girlfriends of England’s national team footballers, however, Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy weren’t famous before their respective marriages. Their teammates did not play together in the team, but they were both in the national team.
During the trial Rooney said she and Vardy “weren’t good friends.” As British journalist Elizabeth Paton noted, who in 2019 had commented on Rooney’s allegations to Vardy on the New York Timesthe two however were on good enough terms to sit close to the stadium every now and then and to be among the people who could see each other’s posts on their respective private Instagram profiles.
Vardy initially defended herself from the accusations by claiming that she did not need the money and saying that she had been ill during pregnancy because of the accusations, presented as proof that she had not been the one to pass the information to the Sun. In fact, he complained about Rooney’s behavior and said that he would like to clarify the matter in private. In July 2020, Vardy then sued Rooney, claiming she was vilified and badly damaged by her post, which exposed her to widespread public criticism. A few months later Vardy and Rooney agreed on a temporary suspension of the trial to try to resolve it with an out-of-court settlement: an agreement that was not reached, however.
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Under the UK libel lawsuit law, Rooney will now have to prove that Vardy was indeed responsible for breaching her privacy and getting her account information to the Sun.
To do so, Rooney’s lawyers requested to see copies of any conversations that may have occurred between Vardy and the reporter from the Sun Andy Halls: the Sun however, he refused to disclose any data and information that could compromise the security of his sources. Rooney’s defense is also trying to get the messages sent and received on Vardy’s phone at the time, and specifically those she would be exchanging with Caroline Watt, her agent for him.
Although Vardy has always claimed that he had nothing to do with the affair, during the testimony at the trial he seems to have suggested that Watt may have passed some information to Halls without her knowing. As the Guardian, however, Watt’s phone “fell” into the sea after Rooney’s lawyers asked to be able to see the messages it contained, and the IT expert who had been contacted by Vardy to review his WhatsApp conversations would have lost his password to access it. A laptop that Vardy always used while he spread the information about Rooney would also stop working.
According to Rooney’s lawyers, however, the electronic printouts of the conversations between Vardy and Watt would indicate that some messages exchanged between them have been manually deleted. Vardy’s lawyers, for their part, argue that she did not “deliberately destroy or lose relevant documents on the case,” which if proven could create significant legal problems for her. Meanwhile, Watt was also supposed to appear as a witness during the trial: a few days ago, however, it became known that he would not testify due to health problems.