What Hollywood’s Reynolds and McElhenney got right at Wrexham

Wrexham, Wales – May 2, 2023: Wrexham AFC co-owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney join the club’s men’s team in a bus parade following their respective title-winning seasons in the Vanarama National League and Genero Adlan North and celebrate with the women’s team. .

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LONDON — When Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhennie bought Wrexham AFC, a small Welsh football club in decline in the fifth tier of the English league pyramid, many believed that the two Hollywood stars I was skeptical that it would be able to cheer up long-suffering fans. .

Especially since, by their own admission, the first ideas about football, or football since then, have been forced to call it football, and also about North Wales, home to the sport’s third oldest professional club. I didn’t think about it.

The two actors will complete a £2million ($2.5million) takeover of the club in February 2021, and last month Wrexham won the Vanarama National League title, making their way to the English Football League after 15 years in the wilderness. (EFL) secured promotion to the system. .

The club is set to compete in EFL League 2 next year and now boasts a revitalized local fan base, a global cult following attracted to A-list owners and a hit documentary series. That budget could overwhelm the budgets of many of their Ligue 2 opponents next year, but the competition will be much stiffer.

“The thing that hits me is how wrong it could have been. People are waiting for this kind of thing to be shot down,” said head of strategy at British brand transformation firm FutureBrand. , Sam Hollis, told CNBC last week.

“There’s a lot of pressure and attention from the press, not to mention skepticism from hardcore football fans. Cities like Wrexham are very proud of their clubs. It’s part of their way of life.” It doesn’t welcome outsiders easily, it’s a kind of ecosystem.”

A team like Wrexham, based in smaller provincial cities and towns and competing in lower leagues, is a far cry from the multi-billion dollar allure of England’s flagship Premier League.

Wrexham, Wales – May 2, 2023: Wrexham AFC fans celebrate during a bus parade following their league title win. I am wearing a costume.

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

As such, fans are reluctant to be seen as celebrity playthings and expect owners to invest both time and resources to ensure the club’s success.

Reynolds and McElhenney, who seemed wary of this, were quickly able to build rapport with the local community. Hollis attributes this to a “radical transparency” approach.

“Had they come in and pretended to know what they were doing, pretending to know anything about football, it would have been impossible to keep it. UK They’re not using the correct terminology,” Hollis points out, suggesting the pair’s self-deprecating willingness to learn on the job from the club’s fan base helped build trust. Did.

“So brutal honesty and transparency in acknowledging that the town owns the club. They’re just watching over it and helping it out during this chapter, but it’s always going to be owned by the Wrexham community.” “Wow. This approach won out quickly. A lot of people are on their side,” he added.

You can see a lot of people following suit and trying to recreate the format by buying underperforming clubs. You risk failure or fail badly.

Sam Hollis

Head of Strategy, FutureBrand

The club’s popularity was greatly boosted by the Disney+ and HBO documentary series Welcome to Wrexham. The series follows the new owners’ efforts to secure promotion to League Two in their first season.

This first campaign was ultimately unsuccessful as Wrexham lost 5–4 Thriller to eventual promotion winners Grimsby Town in the play-off semi-finals. Grimsby have since cemented their place in League Two, with the two clubs set to meet again next season.

Celebrity endorsements and the associated global attention helped build Wrexham’s profile, but the “Deadpool” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” star came with commitment and investment. said he understood that “it takes more than funny Twitter posts and documentaries” to turn around a struggling club like Wrexham.

“For example, we often see both actors spending time with their team players at soccer games. said.

Wrexham fans have endured a lot in recent decades as the club has been pushed to the brink by massive debt and the lasting financial repercussions of a string of disastrous owners. A pair of stripping and profiteering men planned to optimize the club’s fortunes and sell a piece of land that had been foiled by a local taxi driver.

A local businessman took over, but was unable to rebuild the club’s finances and eventually oversaw its relegation from the Football League in 2008. .

The club was on the verge of being financially excluded from the 2011/12 season, but the Wrexham Supporters Trust were able to save the club through donations from fans.

WST has survived the club for 10 years, but Reynolds and McElhenney’s takeover offer in November 2020 represents a renewed hope for Wrexham to return to the big leagues.

Celebrity football interest has increased in recent years, with Hollywood stars regularly sighted on various English grounds, and following Wrexham’s relative success so far, attempts to imitate There is a lot of speculation about the emergence of

“I can see a lot of people following suit and trying to recreate the format by buying clubs that aren’t performing well, but unless you’re willing to spend the necessary time and money and really commit, I think that’s going to happen. You risk failing, or failing badly,” Hollis said.

“Anyone who wants to follow this model needs to understand that they are doing more than lending star power.Being an owner also makes them an investor.That is the key to success. .”

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