Coleen Rooney’s ellipses rained down like dragon fire, with each excessive full stop laying waste to something new. Friendships. Social media. Professional dignity. An entire nation’s news agenda. Nothing was spared in the onslaught. Even now, more than a week from the epicenter, the tremors refuse to fade. And it’s all because one WAG outed another WAG on Twitter.
Wives and Girlfriends
For the uninitiated, WAG stands for Wives And Girlfriends, an acronym used to describe the romantic partners of British footballers. It’s a term that first came to prominence during England’s 2006 World Cup campaign—a campaign that, it has been claimed, was first overshadowed and then utterly derailed by the face-meltingly decadent, girls-gone-wild exploits of the players’ other halves.
Champagne was consumed by the bottle, through straws. Columnist Marina Hyde, of The Guardian, recalls seeing Victoria Beckham—who reportedly took 60 pairs of sunglasses and 30 pairs of jeans for the trip—in a swimming pool, wearing heels. The German newspaper Bild reported that six of the WAGs blew through $100,000 dollars in a boutique, in a single hour. One WAG, Elen Rives, was reportedly ejected from her flight to the tournament for throwing a hissy fit about an airline’s hand-luggage restrictions. “Hooligans with Visas” is how the Spanish newspaper ABC described them in a fit of the vapors.
Victoria Beckham reportedly took 60 pairs of sunglasses and 30 pairs of jeans for the trip.
Aesthetically, WAGs tend to fit into a very distinct archetype. There are hair extensions. There are boob jobs. Fake lashes. The constant low-level nuclear thrum of a fake tan. Eyebrows that look as if they’ve been applied with a Sharpie from a passing car at speed. They’re bold. They’re brassy. They’re married to big, muscly men who get paid a fortune for kicking a ball around. They’re dripping with unimaginable wealth. They’re celebrities. They’re Real Housewives. They look—and I’m afraid that this is more a guess than a statement of scientific fact—like they might be quite flammable. These are the WAGs.
So, now to the protagonist. Coleen Rooney was present during the wild days of 2006, as the childhood sweetheart of then England wunderkind Wayne Rooney. Back then she was young and shy and slight, a plain-faced girl in love with a boy who’d become a star. But now, thanks to her husband’s past encounters with prostitutes, she’s become battle-hardened. Now she’s something slightly more brittle. Now she’s Poor Coleen, grande dame of the WAGs, a mother of four determined to stand by her man no matter what form of hell he chooses to put her through. Although, given the calculated fury with which Coleen just dispatched one of her friends, you’d have to imagine that Wayne is currently worried for his life.
Hunting Down the Snitch
Here’s what happened. At 10:29 on Wednesday, October 9, Rooney tweeted a Notes screenshot to her 1.2 million followers. In it, she slowly unpacked a tale of intrigue and scandal. Someone, she claimed, had been accessing her private Instagram stories and passing their content to The Sun newspaper. The leaks caused her so much distress that she struck upon a plan: she would block everyone from seeing her stories except for one account. And then she set to work.
Eyebrows that look as if they’ve been applied with a Sharpie from a passing car at speed.
Over the course of five months, Coleen went about seeding fictional details about her life onto her stories. She wrote that her basement was flooded, that she was reviving her long-dormant television career, that she had flown to Mexico while pregnant for a controversial gender-selection procedure. All of them seen only by her suspect. And all of them found their way to The Sun. This, she said, gave her all the proof she needed to expose her mole. And then, in a flourish of punctuation, came the ice-cold dénouement:
“It’s ……….Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Meet Rebekah Vardy, a relative newcomer to the WAGopolis. She married Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy just three weeks after he propelled his team to the top of the English Premier League in an almost unprecedented underdog story. Like his team, Jamie Vardy was rough and ready—quite literally, having a conviction for assault and a history of racial slurs—and Rebekah seemed like the perfect match. She was a self-confessed survivor, who left her parents’ council house at 16 after being sexually abused. But to the more established WAGs—which had decade-old money—she was new money, an opportunist desperate for attention, either in the form of reality TV (in 2017 she appeared on the ITV series I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here) or in print (in 2001 she slept with pop star Peter Andre and sold her story to the News of the World, claiming that the singer’s penis resembled a “miniature chipolata”). And now she was the villain.
But to the more established WAGs, she was new money, an opportunist desperate for attention.
In the wake of the tweet, the Internet exploded with a giddiness seldom seen in these dark days, with people stunned by Rooney’s diligent detective work and elegantly structured reveal. Within moments, the term “WAGatha Christie” had started to trend on Twitter. By dusk, thrilled that the news cycle wasn’t being dominated by yet more relentless Trump or Brexit misery, newspapers had started to call it “the best day on Twitter of all time,” a statement quickly questioned by those who could still recollect the day when it was claimed that David Cameron once had sex with a dead pig’s head.
Immediately, Rebekah flew into damage-limitation mode. In another Notes screenshot, she denied being the mole, passing the blame to people to whom she’d given her Instagram password. “I’m so upset that you have chosen to do this, especially when I’m heavily pregnant,” she wrote to Rooney before signing off with a broken-heart emoji.
Welcome to WAGxit
And now we live in WAGxit. The WAG community has been torn asunder by this dramatic revelation. Other WAGs have appeared on television to further denounce Vardy, queuing up politely to put the boot into their comrade. Some have even gone as far as suggesting that Vardy is the “Secret WAG” employed by The Sun to dish the dirt on her peers. Meanwhile, Vardy has apparently launched a forensic investigation of her Instagram account to discover who else had seen Coleen’s stories, but not before she unhelpfully informed another newspaper that she doesn’t plan to confront Rooney because “that would be like arguing with a pigeon.”
There is no end in sight to this. The spat has been debated on Radio 4’s highbrow Today program. Keira Knightley has appeared to signal her willingness to play Coleen Rooney in a film. The Essex Police have publicly stated that they need to recruit people with the same caliber of detective prowess as Rooney’s. This is going to run and run, and nobody knows where it will lead us. The only certainty we have left is the knowledge that under absolutely no circumstances whatsoever should we even think about crossing Coleen Rooney.
Stuart Heritage is an Editor at Large for air mail based in Kent, U.K.