LONDON – A candid window into the glamorous world of English soccer, and the exposé of the machinations of back-stabbing celebrities. A phone lost to the sea, along with the evidence it supposedly contained. And a legal whodunit with powerhouse lawyers dissecting private WhatsApp messages in open court as tears flow on the witness stand.
These were some of the gossip-fueling facets of a libel case contested by the famous English soccer players that are expected to draw on Thursday. The proceedings, focused on the Instagram feud between the two women, have riveted Britain over the past week, with established news media and tabloids alike observing each revelation, and photographers presenting for shots of celebrities arriving outside the London courtroom.
The judge in the case will later rule on whether one of the women, Coleen Rooney, defamed the other, Rebekah Vardy, in social media posts that accused Ms. Ms. Vardy of leaking Rooney’s personal information to The Sun newspaper.
Tabloid coverage of the wives and girlfriends of soccer players (widely known in Britain by the acronym WAG) is intense, and both women have leveraged their exposure to large social media followings and achieve some fame in their own right as media personalities. The series of designer clothes (dissected by the media for hidden messaging).
Adrian Bingham, a professor of modern British history at the University of Sheffield, who has studied media and gender issues. “The essence of a good story remains the same,” he said, noting the “healthy lashings of sex and deceit and money and glory” in the case.
“We don’t know how the plot ends this is exciting,” he added. “Who did it? Who is going to be found guilty? ”
The public sparring between the two women began in October 2019 after Ms. Rooney disclosed online that has been leaking information to a tabloid newspaper. She had a suspicion who the leaker was, added Vardy’s – and then posted false stories to see if they would show up in the news media.
Ms. Ms. Rooney said that the stories were indeed picked up, and she revealed the findings of her investigation in an online statement accusing Ms. Vardy of leaking them. Ms. The “Wagatha Christie” affair – playing off the WAG acronym and the name of detective novelist Agatha Christie.
When asked in court by Ms. Vardy’s lawyer what she had intended to achieve with her online statement, He said: “I didn’t achieve anything; what did I want to stop the person who was leaking my private information to The Sun. ”
“This was my last resort,” she added.
Ms. Vardy has denied being behind the leaks and said that multiple people had access to her account. As a result of Ms. Rooney’s post, she said,
“I’ve been called a leaker, and it’s not nice,” Vardy said during the hearing.
In 2020, Ms. Ms. Vardy began libel proceedings against Rooney, and, because the two women were unable to reach a settlement, the case went to trial – an unusual and costly process that according to lawyers’ estimates.
With such vast sums at stake and the private lives of the rich and famous in full court, the feud quickly entranced large sections of the British public.
Even the most serious news outlets, which have been discovered by Professor Bingham, said.
“There is a legitimacy to talking about this because it’s a courtroom and it really raises serious issues of privacy,” he noted.
And for the tabloids, the case was a feeding frenzy. Athalie Matthews, a London-based lawyer who specializes in defamation, said “the personal lives of both parties are wide open in a way that the press can report on complete impunity.”
Interest was so high that attendees spilled into an overflow room at the London courtroom. Juicy revelations were blogged live by journalists and summarized by the BBC and The Daily Mail – though by Thursday, journalists waiting outside the courtroom seemed ready for the trial’s end.
Ms. Former England soccer captain Wayne Rooney, who has been involved in marital tensions, revealed in one session. WhatsApp messages between Ms. Vardy and her agent, Caroline Watt, disparaged Ms. The court also heard. WhatsApp messages were accidentally dropped by Watt into the North Sea, Ms. Vardy’s lawyer said – a mishap that Ms. Rooney’s lawyer appeared to be a case of concealing evidence.
Ms. Vardy suggests that Ms. Ms. Watt had previously passed information about Ms. Rooney to The Sun newspaper, but Ms. Ms. Vardy’s lawyers argued that there was insufficient evidence that Vardy herself was responsible for any leaks. They have also said that Ms. Watt is ill and therefore unable to provide testimony.
If Ms. Ms. Vardy wins the libel case, the damages awarded are likely to cost tens of thousands of pounds, according to legal experts Rooney probably has to pay her rival’s legal fees. If Ms. Ms. Rooney wins Ms. Vardy will be left with the bill for the fees and could face a case for infringement of privacy, Ms. Matthews, the defamation lawyer, they said.
“The trial is not going to change the image of libel as the preserve of the rich,” Matthews added, noting that people have the money to risk such legal proceedings.
But, Ms. Matthews said, it might cause people to reconsider before posting material that could cause serious harm to someone’s reputation.
Regardless of the outcome, the case has highlighted the inherent tensions between the desire for privacy and the price of fame. “This is what tabloid culture is all about and we are just seeing a new iteration in this social media age,” Professor Bingham said.