Britain—or at least, a lot of people on Twitter in Britain—is currently transfixed by a public dispute between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy, the wives of two of England’s best-known soccer players. Rooney claimed on Twitter yesterday that she suspected one of her friends was leaking personal information to The Sun, Britain’s most popular and controversial tabloid.
So, she turned detective.
Rooney blocked everyone from viewing her Instagram stories except the person she suspected of leaking to The Sun. The detective work paid off, with Rooney revealing the alleged culprit in a devastating last line. “Its ……….Rebekah Vardy’s account,” she wrote, a claim that had jaws dropping across the UK. In a lengthy response, Vardy hinted she had been hacked, and that she had hired lawyers to “forensically investigate” her own Instagram account. She also said that Rooney’s accusations were a particular affront because she’s “heavily pregnant.”
The Rooneys are from Liverpool, a city that has boycotted The Sun for more than 30 years, because of its inaccurate and vindictive coverage of the Hillsborough soccer stadium disaster in which 96 Liverpudlians died. In the circumstances, Coleen Rooney is unlikely to have enjoyed a good relationship with the newspaper.
Rooney and Vardy first came to public attention as WAGs, a tabloid acronym for wives and girlfriends of star athletes, but they have since established themselves in other parts of British popular culture. Rooney is an author, TV presenter, and charity patron, with 1.3 million Twitter followers. Vardy is also well known for her TV work, and is an active and opinionated presence on Twitter.
Both come from low-income families. Like their husbands—Wayne Rooney of DC United and Jamie Vardy of Leicester City—they are not thought to have strayed too far from their roots, despite their enormous wealth. For many, they represent working-class aspiration and success, at a time when much of the UK is gripped by fear and pessimism.
Its politicians are arguing over Brexit and society remains deeply polarized. Soccer is a popular distraction, but it too has been consumed by large amounts of money from television companies and sponsors, leaving many fans feeling they no longer belong. Step forward the WAGs, to save Brits from despair and tedium, at least for a little while.