Rebekah Vardy must pay an estimated £1.5 million towards Coleen Rooney’s legal costs after losing her defamation case against her fellow footballer’s wife earlier this year.
A judge ruled that Mrs Vardy, 40, should pay 90% of Mrs Rooney’s legal costs following the high profile libel claim. According to court documents, she must also make an initial payment of £800,000 to Mrs Rooney, 36, by 15 November.
It comes after Mrs Vardy, who is married to footballer Jamie Vardy, lost the so-called ‘Wagatha Christie’ battle in July when the High Court ruled that Mrs Rooney’s viral social media post claiming her former friend was leaking her private information to the press was “substantially true”.
But why does Mrs Vardy have to pay so much money, and what happened in the libel trial? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is the Wagatha Christie scandal?
You may have been living under a rock if you haven’t heard of the words ‘Wagatha Christie‘ as the scandal involving the wives of footballers Jamie Vardy and Wayne Rooney took the internet by storm in 2019 - and made headlines worldwide earlier this year when the case finally went to trial.
It all started when Mrs Rooney conducted a “sting” operation to find out who was leaking stories from her private Instagram account to journalists at The Sun. She planted a series of fake stories, such as stories of her travelling to Mexico for a “gender selection” procedure, her planned return to TV, and the basement flooding at her home.
In posts that went viral on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in October 2019, she then made her allegation. which included her viral post on Instagram Stories: “I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them. It’s ……….… Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Mrs Vardy has always denied she passed the information from Mrs Rooney’s Instagram to the newspaper.
How did Rebekah Vardy react to the allegation?
Mrs Vardy, who was pregnant with her fifth child at the time, immediately responded on social media to the accusation.
She posted an image of her notes app on Instagram, where she wrote her defence. This included the claim that various people had had access to her Instagram account over the years, and words about how upset she was that Mrs Rooney had not called her the first time stories were leaked.
She also wrote in the caption: “I can’t believe I’m even having to write this. I’m pregnant & on holiday & am at a loss as to why she would do this. I’m having to take legal advice as I can’t deal with this stress myself when I’m this pregnant.”
When Mrs Rooney failed to offer a public apology, Mrs Vardy launched legal action in 2020, suing Mrs Rooney for libel over the claims on social media. A ‘libel’ or ‘defamation’ case is mounted when an individual feels their reputation has been damaged by the publishing of a false statement.
The case finally went to court in May 2022.
Why did Coleen Rooney win the trial?
After a highly-publicised, two-week long trial, Judge Mrs Justice Steyn found in July that Mrs Rooney’s viral social media post was “substantially true” and dismissed the claim against her.
She said in her ruling that it was “likely” that Mrs Vardy’s agent at the time, Caroline Watt, “undertook the direct act” of passing the information to The Sun, adding that Mrs Vardy likely “knew of, condoned and was actively engaged” in the process of leaking stories.
While Mrs Steyn accepted Mrs Vardy had received “vile abuse” and “vitriol”, none of which she said there was any justification or excuse for, she also ruled that the celebrity’s evidence in the trial was “manifestly inconsistent” with other evidence on “many occasions”.
When the verdict was announced, Mrs Vardy said in a statement that she was "extremely sad and disappointed" at the judge’s decision.
Mrs Rooney said at the time she was "pleased" the ruling had gone in her favour, adding "it was not a case I ever sought or wanted".
Why does Mrs Vardy have to pay Mrs Rooney’s legal fees?
Mrs Vardy is paying Mrs Rooney’s legal fees because the claim she brought against her was dismissed. In other words, she lost the defamation case - so she has to pay.
She has been ordered by a judge to pay 90% of the legal costs, a larger proportion than in many equivalent cases. This is partly due to the fact that Mrs Vardy was found to have deliberately destroyed WhatsApp messages and other evidence relevant to the trial.
The judge said: “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.”
Despite the ruling, Mrs Vardy has continued to maintain her innocence, saying the judge “got it wrong”.
How much money does Mrs Vardy have to pay?
It is estimated that Mrs Vardy will have to pay £1.5 million towards legal costs. Mrs Rooney’s legal team have not yet produced a final total for their costs, but the last figure presented to the court was £1,667,860 - and 90% of that would be £1.5 million if it remains unchanged.
Mrs Rooney incurred total costs of more than £2m, but £350,000 of those had already been racked up before the trial in May, so those were removed from the figure that her legal team presented to the court.
Mrs Rooney had argued she should be paid 100%, while Mrs Vardy had asked to pay 80%.
Mrs Justice Steyn settled on 90% as she said there were certain issues which arose during the seven-day trial which justified the reduction of 10% in the amount Mrs Vardy has to pay. These included Mrs Rooney’s "weak" allegation that Mrs Vardy was one of the people behind The Sun’s "Secret Wag" gossip column, and Mrs Rooney’s unsuccessful public interest defence.
She continued: "However, given the defendant’s success on the defence of truth which was at the heart of this claim, and the degree to which there was overlap between the issues, I consider that the appropriate reduction is 10%.”
On top of the estimated £1.5m, Mrs Vardy will have to pay her own legal costs, and some of the costs incurred by seven journalists at The Sun who were potential witnesses but did not give evidence.
This could bring her combined bill to over £3 million, in the latest piece of bad news for Mrs Vardy.
However, the final figure of costs Mrs Vardy has to pay may be reduced if she does not agree to pay the 90% total incurred by Mrs Rooney and, at a later date, a court considers some of those costs to have been unreasonable.