WAGs at war: footballers' wives kick off legal battle

London (AFP) –


An online spat between top England footballers' wives reached court in London on Thursday as Rebekah Vardy began a libel claim against Coleen Rooney over leaks to a tabloid newspaper.

Vardy, whose husband Jamie plays for Leicester City, launched legal action after Rooney claimed in an Instagram post that she was behind stories about her private life in The Sun newspaper.

Rooney's post about her online sleuthing saw her dubbed "Wagatha Christie" given her position as one of the most prominent "wives and girlfriends" (WAGs) of the England team.

Her husband is former Manchester United star Wayne.

But Vardy, who has also appeared in several reality television shows, denied the accusation.

"I don't need the money, what would I gain from selling stories on you?" the 38-year-old model replied.

Lawyer Hugh Tomlinson, acting for Vardy, said his client was depicted as a "villain" in an "untrue and unjustified defamatory attack... published and republished to millions of people".

In a written statement to the High Court, Vardy said she was pregnant at the time and feared she could lose her unborn baby due to the stress of Rooney's allegations.

In the original post, Rooney, 34, described how she gradually narrowed access to her private posts to Vardy's account only, then planted fake stories that later appeared in the tabloid.

Rooney's lawyer David Sherborne said Vardy "was responsible for consistently passing on information about the defendant's private Instagram posts and stories to The Sun" with which she "had a very close relationship".

He said that Rooney in a "sting operation" limited access to her private account to just the @beckyvardy account but argued her post "stops short of (assigning) guilt".

The post said only that "it was Rebekah Vardy's account that was the source of private stories about the defendant appearing in The Sun -- not Rebekah Vardy herself", he added.

Vardy says third parties had access to her Instagram account, which has around 400,000 followers.

Neither Vardy nor Rooney attended a preliminary hearing, where judge Mark Warby was asked to rule on the "natural and ordinary" meaning of Rooney's post.

The judge said he would issue a ruling on Friday.

Vardy's lawyer asked for an adjournment until February to allow for mediation. Should that fail, the case would go trial next year, The Times newspaper reported.