Looking into the Obsession with WAGs

For those who do not follow the personal lives of professional athletes, you may not have heard of the term ‘WAG’.

This is an acronym meaning the wife or girlfriend of an athlete and it can be traced back to the wives and girlfriends of the England international football team. If you would like to find out more about some of the most famous wives and girlfriends in the football world, read this article, which will introduce you to some of the most prominent women to ever be described as a ‘WAG’.

When looking at the obsession with WAGs, we can trace back to when the wives and girlfriends of the England international football players became of interest to the media and the public. The first woman to really capture the attention of the press based on her association with a high profile football player was Victoria Beckham.

Victoria already had a successful career of her own with the Spice Girls and was well known in the United Kingdom and throughout the world in her own right. However, the interest in her life was taken up a notch when she married England and Manchester United footballer, David Beckham. The right midfielder was rapidly making a name for himself as not only one of the top football players in England but also for his life off the pitch. Beckham was happy to be in the media spotlight and this only grew when he started dating Victoria and they got married.

However, WAG culture did not enter the mainstream media until the 2006 World Cup, when England travelled to Germany for the competition. The England team was based in the German town of Baden Baden and England manager at the time, Sven-Göran Eriksson, allowed the wives and girlfriends of the players to travel. Thanks to the coverage in the media, especially the tabloid newspapers, the WAGs soon became celebrities of their own, featuring on the front covers of the newspapers due to their lifestyle. Cheryl Cole, Abbey Clancy, Coleen Rooney, and Alex Gerrard are four of the women who were featured in the press during the 2006 World Cup and they soon became household names. For someone like Cheryl Cole, she was already well known to the public thanks to her pop career but for Coleen Rooney and Alex Gerrard, the exposure was something they would not have witnessed before in their lives.

The media followed the WAGs around the town, reporting on their activities which included shopping, partying and generally having fun. The wives and girlfriends of the England players received more attention than those of any other country participating at the 2006 World Cup. However, it appeared as though it was not a one way street and the wives and girlfriends of the England players had a role to play in their rise to fame. One example talked about the time hotel staff erected a screen to help protect the WAGs from the lenses of the paparazzi as they photographed them enjoying themselves at the hotel swimming pool. However, the women asked the hotel staff to remove the screen as they were happy to accept the attention from the press.

Just a year after the 2006 World Cup, a television show was launched in the United Kingdom, called Footballers’ Wives. This was based on the lives of WAGs and followed the ups and downs of fictional Premier League football club Earls Park. The television series was based on the book written by Shelley Webb, wife of British footballer Neil Webb, entitled, Footballers’ Wives Tell Their Tales.

Although there was plenty of drama in the show, it continued to highlight the luxurious lifestyle of a WAG and this was reinforced with cameo appearances from professional England footballers. Sol Campbell, David Seaman, and Teddy Sheringham all appeared on the show.

With the wives and girlfriends of professional football players seemingly enjoying a carefree lifestyle, with plenty of money to spend, the appeal spread to young girls. They wanted to be the next WAG, enjoying parties and spending money in shops but many of the ladies involved in the 2006 World Cup already had hugely successful careers of their own. That did not stop some girls from believing that marrying a professional footballer was all they needed to earn celebrity status of their own on the front page of the newspaper.

Fast forward to 2021 and social media is the go-to vehicle for WAGs to appear in-front of the eyes of millions. In 2019, Coleen Rooney accused Rebekah Vardy, wife of Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, of leaking personal information to the tabloids. Rooney made the allegation after plotting a scheme using social media website, Instagram.

Essentially, the obsession with WAGS was born from the changes in celebrity culture and the money being earned by professional footballers. The two combined with incredible effect at the 2006 World Cup and the introduction of social media has pushed it to another level.





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