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Exiled Andy 18th November 2020 07.51:45

The A-listers and Wrexham AFC
In The Times today:

On Monday night, after the announcement that the supporters of Wrexham AFC had voted for a Hollywood takeover of their beloved club, the owners-elect had their first experience of the way that buying a football club opens doors to the people in power.

Ryan Reynolds, the star of the Deadpool superhero films, and Rob McElhenney, best known for the TV show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, picked up the phone and went into a series of calls with the leader of Wrexham Borough County Council, its chief executive, the manager of their new team and the club’s most prominent sponsor.

That afternoon the club posted a video the pair had made that began like a spoof advert for the products manufactured by the sponsor and recommended them as holiday gifts. “Nothing says I’m thinking about you - and your horse - like Ifor Williams Trailers” Reynolds said.

After explaining their proposed new relationship to Wrexham and its niche sponsor, they turned serious and thanked the fans for putting their trust in them. “We are humbled and we are already getting to work,” Reynolds continued. “Oh [bleep] this is really happening.”

As takeover announcements go it was unconventional. But then even by the standards of the sport, this is a very unusual union between rich men and a football club.

Canadian-American Reynolds, 44, best-known for playing the foul-mouthed Marvel anti-hero title role in the Deadpool films, is a staple of celebrity magazines, in part for his looks and stardom, and also because he is married to Blake Lively, the actress who made her name in the TV series Gossip Girl whom he met on the set of the film Green Lantern. They have three daughters.

He was previously married for three years to Scarlett Johansson and was once engaged to the singer Alanis Morissette. Estimated to be worth more than $100 million, he is a shrewd businessman who in August received a windfall after Aviation American, the gin brand he co-owned, was bought by Diageo.

McElhenney, 43, while less well-known in the UK, stars in and developed It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which after 15 years is claimed to be the longest-running live-action comedy series. He is married to Kaitlin Olson, who stars in the series with him, and they have two sons.

The team the actors have bought is 14th in the National League, the fifth tier of English and Welsh football. The third-oldest professional side in the world was responsible for probably the greatest upset in FA Cup history, beating Arsenal in the third round in 1992. However, the club dropped out of the English Football League in 2008 and has been community-owned since 2011.

Reynolds and McElhenney will pay a peppercorn figure for the club and invest £2 million. It is clear what Wrexham get out of it, but what are Reynolds and McElhenney up to? Americans own Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and several other clubs. But Wrexham?

The extraordinary new chapter began in May when Spencer Harris, a director of Wrexham AFC and one of its community owners, received a call from the chief executive of Portsmouth, which also has a rather surprising American owner: Michael Eisner, the former boss of Disney.

Harris was connected to Inner Circle Sports, the company that helped Fenway Sports Group to buy Liverpool a decade ago. He was not told the identity of the potential buyers for several weeks, but eventually, after signing a non-disclosure agreement, was introduced by video call to Reynolds and McElhenney. Was he surprised?

“I tend to be fairly grounded in these things,” he says coolly. “These are highly talented people doing extraordinary jobs, but genuinely nice ordinary people when you scrape beneath that. It is quite an incredible thing that they are inquiring and want to know more about your football club. They come at things in a really different way. And it’s really refreshing.”

The stars met the community owner fans by Zoom and issued a “mission statement”. “We’re two people who’ve made a career of never taking ourselves too seriously,” they wrote. “However, we realise taking stewardship of this great and storied club is an incredibly serious matter and something we don’t take lightly.”

They said their goal was to grow the team so that it could return to the football league in an improved stadium and make a positive difference to the community. They were also ambitiously looking to extend its appeal. “Why can’t the third oldest club in the world have a global appeal?” they asked. As part of the wooing of fans, bottles of Aviation American were sent to local pubs.

“What they are really interested in is building something, shaping it, nurturing it and leaving it in a state that’s much better than when they found it,” Harris says. “They are wealthy guys, they’ve made their money. They want to have some fun with it.”

The actors also told the community group that owns the club that they wanted to make some sort of documentary about their project. Some observers have suggested that a deal for a series with Netflix could enable the actors to turn a profit on their £2 million investment. Harris insists that while a documentary is definitely going to happen, it is not their prime motivation. “Some are saying the documentary is the horse and the football club is the cart. It’s not that way round at all. They want to go on this journey and they want to document it and documenting it will drive revenue for the football club. They have shown humility coming into this. Some of the money that comes into football is not good money. And this is good money.”

The actors plan to visit as soon as pandemic travel restrictions allow. In Reynolds the town may get its first in-the-flesh sighting of a former People magazine “sexiest man alive” (2010 vintage). In their mission statement Reynolds and McElhenney said: “We want to be part of Wrexham’s story, not drag the club into ours.” That might be easier said than done, but however it turns out, their attempt to give the “Red Dragons” back some of their fire should be essential viewing — and ensure the club attracts sponsors beyond those specialising in horseboxes and beavertail trailers.

What the new owners can expect — a fan’s view
I wonder if Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney are really ready for the emotional toll of being Wrexham FC fans? I watched my first game 29 years ago at the age of 11, and I can tell you that until you’ve been 4-0 down at home to Telford United within the first ten minutes, you don’t know true misery. My years as a supporter have been a truly epic journey across the emotional buttresses of ennui, misery, anger and boredom.

Here’s a quick guide to what else they can expect when they finally make it over to north Wales for a match:

● Before leaving for the Racecourse Ground (the oldest stadium in the world to have hosted an international match), Reynolds and McElhenney must drink a bottle of Wrexham Lager. It’s so beloved by the fans that a regular anthem is to change the words of Bread of Heavento “Wrexham Lager, Wrexham Lager, feed me till I want no more.”

● As early as possible in proceedings, some form of anti-Chester FC sentiment must be expressed. The Wrexham-Chester derby is the only “international” derby in the UK and there is absolutely no sense whatsoever of grudging fraternity between the two. It’s outright hatred and the more abuse Reynolds and McElhenney can pile upon the loathed team from the Roman city 15 miles away, the more popular they will be.

● When things get really bad, Reynolds and McElhenney should, with the help of supporters sitting near by, close their eyes and sink into a reverie about the events of January 4, 1992, when the reigning league champions Arsenal came to the Racecourse for an FA Cup third-round game and were beaten 2-1 in what is, arguably, still the greatest cup shock.

● And finally, no amount of Hollywood stardust will help with the contempt Reynolds and McElhenney will receive if they can’t sing, with gusto, the unofficial anthem of the club. All together now:

Oh fluffy sheep, oh fluffy sheep
Oh fluffy sheep are wonderful
They’re white, fluffy and Welsh
Oh fluffy sheep are wonderful.

Rob Crossan

podders 18th November 2020 08.06:01

Re: The A-listers and Wrexham AFC
I was a director for the day for that 4-0 loss to Telford.

EnglishRed 18th November 2020 08.12:28

Re: The A-listers and Wrexham AFC
[QUOTE=podders;2409668]I was a director for the day for that 4-0 loss to Telford.[/QUOTE]

Podders out!

NottsRed 18th November 2020 08.15:38

Re: The A-listers and Wrexham AFC
Love the Chester bit.

wazzock 18th November 2020 08.46:40

Re: The A-listers and Wrexham AFC
Wrexham a global power? I'd settle for a Welsh one.

podders 18th November 2020 09.32:14

Re: The A-listers and Wrexham AFC
[QUOTE=EnglishRed;2409669]Podders out![/QUOTE]

If we could still give positive 'rep' for posts i would be sending it your way!

Back of the Kop 18th November 2020 09.49:46

Re: The A-listers and Wrexham AFC
[QUOTE=wazzock;2409683]Wrexham a global power? I'd settle for a Welsh one.[/QUOTE]

Indeed. It would be beyond our wildest dreams just a few months ago to be the best team in Wales, which in reality puts us high up in the Championship.

However, can we at least dream of going all the way ?

wazzock 18th November 2020 11.23:04

Re: The A-listers and Wrexham AFC
[QUOTE=Back of the Kop;2409701]Indeed. It would be beyond our wildest dreams just a few months ago to be the best team in Wales, which in reality puts us high up in the Championship.

However, can we at least dream of going all the way ?[/QUOTE]

Top teams probably spend more than 2 million on haircuts in a season. But yes, nice to dream...

smotyns 18th November 2020 12.02:49

Re: The A-listers and Wrexham AFC
For interests of clarify Rob Crossan is a London based Wrexham fan. Although grew up in Christleton.

fluffysheepsupporter 18th November 2020 12.18:14

Re: The A-listers and Wrexham AFC
Oh fluffy sheep, oh fluffy sheep
Oh fluffy sheep are wonderful
They’re white, fluffy and Welsh
Oh fluffy sheep are wonderful.

I will second that!

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