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The dust of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar may have settled and Boxing Day relegated to our collective rearview, but Premier League fans still have plenty of action to relish, even beyond the scope of this current deluge of festive fixtures. Because footy is the gift that keeps on giving this time of the year, fans in need of an overdose of drama will be able to get their fix now that “Varney v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial” has taken center stage at Wyndham Theater in London’s West End.
For a refresher, “The Wagatha Christie Trial” occurred earlier this year when Rebekah Vardy, the wife of Leicester City’s elite striker Jamie Vardy who led the Foxes to a Premier League title in 2016, sued Colleen Rooney, the wife of former Manchester United and England star Wayne Rooney, for libel. Rooney alleged in a 2019 Twitter post that Vardy, a supposed friend, was leaking stories about her and her family to the British tabloids.
While that alone has enough juice to entertain footy fans and readers of the story alike, the devil’s always in the details. Rooney's allegations were based on a cleverly executed social media “sting,” in which she blocked everyone but Vardy from viewing her Instagram stories. Rooney then planted a series of fake stories, including that she and her legendary Red Devil husband were undergoing gender selection in the hope of having a daughter. Another fake story explained how their house flooded. These were both published in The Sun as were a host of other false items she'd seeded on her Instagram page.
In a fitting amalgam, the British tabloids dubbed Rooney “WAGatha Christie,” a harmonious mashup of “WAG” – “wives and girlfriends” of celebrity athletes – and Agatha Christie, the beloved English mystery novelist. As a reward for all of her amateur sleuthing, Rooney was largely believed in the public.
Vardy vehemently denied leaking the stories in a tweet, explaining that several people could access her personal Instagram account after she was previously hacked. Following that reveal, Vardy detailed in an interview with The Daily Mail how her reputation had been damaged by Rooney’s accusations; however, she also said it would be senseless to argue with her former friend.
"That would be like arguing with a pigeon," Vardy detailed to the paper. "You can tell it that you are right, and it is wrong, but it's still going to s–t in your hair."
Nonetheless, Vardy wound up suing Rooney in 2020 for libel. Under the United Kingdom’s strict legal guidelines, Rooney would be forced to provide proof that Vardy was the leaker and had been the person disseminating the negative information to the tabloids. The trial commenced in May 2022, seeing both women take the stand. According to the BBC, the available evidence presented at the trial conveyed that Vardy had supplied her agent at the time, Caroline Watt, with information from Rooney’s private Instagram account, suggesting that passing the information to the press could result in substantial compensation for Vardy.
The trial took an interesting turn after a forensic psychiatrist deemed Watt was mentally unfit to take the stand, and subsequently, Watt was excused from testifying. As reported by The Independent, the drama continued to build after Watt infamously claimed to have lost her phone in the North Sea in 2021 – the same phone which would’ve coincidently supplied her half of the communication between the two women when the allegations first surfaced. The Guardian also reported that many records from Vardy’s phone were lost after her IT expert who was meant to retrieve them from her phone and encrypt them unexpectedly lost the password to Vardy’s phone.
This opened the door for Rooney’s attorneys to successfully argue to the British court that the missing evidence “is of the highest value that would fit,” and in July, according to the BBC, the court ruled against Vardy, deeming Rooney’s allegations that Vardy leaked stories about her to The Sun “substantially true” and that Rooney was “an honest and reliable witness.” The judge also ruled that even though Watt may have been the person directly supplying the tabloids with the intel, Vardy “knew of and condoned [Watt’s] behavior [and] actively engaged in it.” The judge continued her assessment, noting that "significant parts of [Vardy’s] evidence were not credible," detailing them as "evasive or implausible" and "manifestly inconsistent." Watt’s story about dropping her phone in the North Sea didn’t pass the smell test either.
"I have found that Ms. Vardy and Ms. Watt have deliberately deleted or destroyed evidence," the judge declared. "In my judgment, it is likely that Ms. Vardy deliberately deleted her WhatsApp chat with Ms. Watt, and that Ms. Watt deliberately dropped her phone in the sea."
Ultimately, Vardy was assessed with the hefty fine of having to pay 90 percent of Rooney’s lawyers’ fees, which the BBC revealed equated to a base of $1.7 million, if not more.
Clearly, the story was always meant to play out on a bigger stage, so get your tickets fast. Starring Laura Dos Santos and Lucy May Barker as the titular characters, the theatrical play is written by Liv Hennessy and directed by Lisa Spirling. While there have been theatrical productions that deal with football such as William Gaminara's "The Three Lions" (2013,) Patrick Marber's "The Red Lion" (2015) and 2022's "Gods of the Game: a Football Opera", “Vardy v Rooney” is a unique outlier as it examines the public’s fascination with “WAGs” and the often ostentatious social media fame that accompanies their everyday lives.
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