Wagatha Christie: A uniquely British feud

Rebekah Vardy

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Forget The Crown. The only British drama you need right now is the real-life feud between two Wags – wives and girlfriends of football stars – currently playing out in the UK High Court.

Last year, Coleen Rooney, the wife of former England striker Wayne Rooney, sensationally accused fellow soccer spouse Rebekah Vardy of leaking her personal information to the British tabloids. Rooney said she knew this because she had carried out a sophisticated sting operation on Instagram.

Vardy has vehemently denied the allegations and has taken Rooney to court for defamation. A judge has made an initial ruling in favour of Vardy, but the legal battle is far from over. If Vardy and Rooney do not resolve things privately, we may see a full trial in the new year.

We know, it’s a lot. So here’s what you need to know about the high-profile spat that has sparked a court battle, inspired hundreds of memes and riveted a nation.

First, the basics.

Even outside the Royal Family, the British like their titles. And on the sidelines of a professional football pitch, these women may as well be royalty. The term first entered the popular vernacular alongside Victoria Beckham – also known as Posh Spice – international pop star and wife to football phenomenon David Beckham.

Victoria Beckham and Cheryl Tweedy

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With Posh at the helm, the mid to late-2000s became the golden age of Wag-dom, with attention turned increasingly away from the field and into the stands. So much so, that some blamed England’s poor performance at the 2006 World Cup on the Wags, who were dubbed a distraction.

As mentioned above, Instagram sleuth Coleen Rooney is married to Wayne Rooney, England star and also a former player for Manchester United, DC United and others. The supposed leaker, Rebekah Vardy, is the wife of Jamie Vardy, who plays for Premier League club Leicester City.

Both Wayne and Jamie had also played together for the England football team.

Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy

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According to British journalist Elizabeth Paton – who has tried to explain all this to Americans in the pages of the New York Times – Rooney used her time as Wag to grow her celebrity status – reaching “peak Wag royalty” while Vardy is “a more recent addition to the fold”. The two were not “known enemies”, Ms Paton said, but this quickly changed last year.

Last October, Rooney made the claim that someone had leaked information from her Instagram account to a tabloid newspaper. In a stunning display of sleuthing skills, Rooney blocked all of her followers – except for one – from seeing her Instagram stories. To smoke out the culprit, Rooney then posted a series of fake stories which later appeared in The Sun.

Coleen Rooney

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And who was the one account left?

“It’s………….. Rebekah Vardy’s account,” Rooney wrote in the post heard round the world, complete with the cliffhanger ellipses. Rooney’s apparent detective skills earned her the nickname Wagatha Christie – a play on Wag and Agatha Christie, the English writer famed for her detective novels.

But Rooney’s bombshell claim was quickly rejected by Vardy, who posted a screenshotted note of her own, saying she had “never” spoken to journalists about her fellow Wag. “I’m not being funny but I don’t need the money, what would I gain from selling stories on you,” she wrote, and directed her lawyers to conduct a “forensic investigation” into her Instagram account to see who had access, and when.

Since then, Vardy has moved the drama from Instagram to the court room, where she has sued Rooney for libel. In court, Vardy’s lawyer Hugh Tomlinson called Rooney’s posts an “untrue and unjustified defamatory attack… published and republishes to millions of people”. While the “wag wars” have been trivialised, Mr Tomlinson said, the impact on his client has been serious.

Still, Rooney’s legal team has maintained that Vardy was the leaker, “consistently passing on information about the defendant’s private Instagram”.

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In the first ruling of the trial so far, Judge Mark Warby ruled that the now-infamous Wagatha post looked like it was putting the blame directly on Vardy, not simply on Vardy’s social media account – as argued by Rooney’s team.

Though the decision was in favour of Vardy, this is far from over. Friday’s ruling just clarifies the rules of the road going forward at trial.

Both Vardy and Rooney have agreed to a “stay” of proceedings until February, giving the two a chance to resolve things outside of court.

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