Almost three years ago, British TV presenter Coleen Rooney, wife of soccer legend Wayne Rooney, authored one of the greatest posts of all time, setting off a two-year legal battle that she won on Friday. Judge Karen Steyn of the High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division ruled against the plaintiff, Rebekah Vardy, wife of Leicester City star Jamie Vardy, in a libel suit she filed against Rooney, enshrining as fact in the British legal system that Vardy is a snitch and a fake friend.
Our story begins in October 2019, when Rooney revealed the results of some detective work she performed in order to smoke out someone close to her who’d clearly been selling information to the Sun, a British tabloid that friend of the program Tim Marchman tells me, “Makes the New York Post look like the Washington Post.” Rooney blocked everyone except Vardy from viewing stories posted to a private Instagram account, began posting clearly fake updates, then watched as those updates made their way into the pages of the Sun with headlines like “COL’S BABY GIRL BID: Coleen Rooney travelled to Mexico to look into £8k ‘gender selection’ treatment in desperate bid to have baby girl.” Rooney’s tweet revealing the sting has a lovely dramatic arc and a big reveal at the end.
Half an hour after Rooney’s bombshell, Vardy dropped a Notes app statement, simultaneously denying that she had anything to do with the leaks while also laying the groundwork for an obtuse hacking defense. If you are trying to make the case, as Vardy was, that you had no reason to sell stories to a tabloid because you were already rich and respected the bonds of friendship, perhaps it’s a bit too defensive to also admit, “Over the years various people have had access to my insta.” Vardy said she would be hiring a legal team to conduct a “forensic investigation” into the matter, though the facade slipped quickly and her legal team pivoted from investigating to leveraging the UK’s ironclad libel laws against Rooney. Vardy and Rooney spoke over the phone, but Vardy took the offensive after Rooney refused to retract her obviously true post.
Two days after the original post, Vardy gave an infamous interview to the Daily Mail, in which the reporter asked her if the two had argued over the phone. “That would be like arguing with a pigeon,” she said. “You can tell it that you are right and it is wrong, but it’s still going to shit in your hair.” A lovely deployment of a well-known metaphor. In June 2020, Vardy formally filed her lawsuit against Rooney, seeking £1 million in damages. Legal proceedings continued for two years, with Vardy seemingly poised for victory in late 2020. At every turn, representation on both sides urged the two sides to settle, though neither Vardy nor Rooney budged. As a result, more evidence bubbled to the surface, including a statement from the FA in support of “Coleen’s claim that Rebekah and her party refused to move when asked to and abused a liaison officer at Euro 2016 after she sat behind Coleen to maximize her publicity during the England vs. Wales match at Lens.”
In February 2022, text message evidence was introduced in court showing that Vardy’s then-agent Caroline Watt had acted as courier between Vardy and the Sun. One such piece of evidence was a WhatsApp message Vardy had sent to Watt that said, “It wasn’t someone she trusted. It was me.” with a laughing face emoji attached to it. In another message, Vardy referred to Rooney as a “nasty bitch.” Seems pretty straightforward. The court ordered Watt’s phone searched, but she told the court that she unfortunately dropped it off a boat on accident while on vacation. Oops!
The case went to trial in May, and brought us such highlights as Vardy being asked questions like, “Did you or did you not know that the lads were fuming?” while under cross examination. Although Vardy tried to pin the whole thing on her representation, Judge Steyn saw through it. “I have found that Ms. Vardy was party to the disclosure to The Sun of the Marriage, Birthday, Halloween, Pyjamas, Car Crash, Gender Selection, Babysitting and Flooded Basement Posts,” she wrote in her judgment. “It is likely that Ms. Watt undertook the direct act, in relation to each post, of passing the information to a journalist at The Sun.” And so it ends. Congratulations to Coleen Rooney on her big win. Now that D.C. United’s manager has a clear head, the team will surely also be inspired to MLS glory.