Why the hell would Ryan Reynolds (and Mac) want to buy Wrexham AFC?

A couple of years ago I wrote an article titled Wrexham, what a shithole. And now here we are again and people are asking why the hell Deadpool and Rob McElhenney would be interested in buying Wrexham’s football club.

So I thought I’d put down a couple of the reasons why the hell they would be interested.

I remember watching a pre-season hammering of Man City featuring Nicky Summerbee, Kit Symons and Niall Quinn – 6–1 to the rockin’ Robins. Feels like lifetime ago. Long story short, Wrexham AFC are a sleeping giant.

I think it’s this sleeping giant that McElhenney and Reynolds have spotted and fancy stirring back into life.

There are four big reasons to consider Wrexham AFC as a big opportunity.

  • Current fan base

Current fan base

Wrexham consistently attract a high attendance – higher than half of league 2 and a quarter of league 1 – despite the years of hurt.

Although Wrexham have been out of the English Football League since 2008, they have still managed to rank in the top 3 attendance in the division year on year with some big clubs going through the league in recent years.

Their away following is higher than many Championship teams. Last season, at the Notts County game, there were more travelling Wrexham fans than the total attendance at half of the other matches in their division.

Wrexham fans are amazing, passionate, loud, and very loyal. In the 70s it wasn’t unusual to see crowds of 20,000+. It isn’t unrealistic to expect the same again.

Development opportunities

The Racecourse has a higher capacity than a recent Premier League team. The Kop is still to be developed – and could give a capacity of 15,000–20,000. There are already hospitality booths, which could be packed if there’s a chance of rubbing shoulders with A-listers.

And packed they should be – Wrexham has one of the largest industrial estates in Europe, full of global brands and manufacturing everyday house hold brands. Cutting edge science, and over 8,000 workers. Wrexham is the largest town in Wales north of Merthyr Tydfil – it’s a commercial centre for north Wales, but also across the north west. There’s also a packed technology park across the road from the stadium – Development Bank of Wales moved their HQ there, and a growing community of freelancers and startups in the town centre.

The development of the stadium itself has just passed a significant milestone as the council, university and Welsh government have reached an agreement on the land in the area to create invest in a major development to include a new transport hub, and an idea for a football museum which could attract even more visitors to the area.

And this is a historic site which deserves more visitors. Wrexham AFC is one of the oldest professional football clubs still active at a high level in the world. Notts County and Stoke are the others formed within months of each other. You can’t buy that kind of history and legacy.

It’s the world’s oldest active international stadium. We don’t get too many Bale and Ramsey appearances (=never) but Earnshaw, Koumas and Ben Woodburn have brought some good nights to the Racecourse.

Future fan base

If the takeover goes ahead, the owners will create profile for the club like nothing else ever could. Fans will be wearing Wrexham shirts in LA and Philadelphia, and movie and TV fans will be keeping an eye out for the results.

Closer to home, Wrexham could be a club for North Wales. I don’t think this is likely. But, this the kind of novelty that could achieve that. Local kids wear Man United and Liverpool kits, but my nephew declared already that he wouldn’t mind a Wrexham kit this Christmas. Deadpool is a global brand even if the kids aren’t old enough to watch it.

This future, global fan base gives us the future commercial model…

Commercial model

This is the big prize. In 18/19 Wrexham were the only team to hammer Salford in their promotion season (not still bitter about that or owt, 5–1 in case you missed it). But wait, there’s more. Beckham is a co-owner of Salford. There’s a skit on YouTube with over 34m views of Beckham and Deadpool talking about David Beckham’s voice. If Reynolds and McElhenney were going to talk to anyone about investing in football, he would be the guy they’d start with.

Beckham is also a co-owner of Salford City. That 5–1 result would have stuck in the mind. This is why I think Wrexham is on the radar of Reynolds and McElhenney.

I don’t think we will see Deadpool/Wrexham crossovers just yet, but there are plenty of other opportunities.

Stevenage sold out of their kits for the first time ever in 2020, shipping their jerseys all over the world. They were the most popular team selected on FIFA 19s career mode. This stunt was thanks to a sponsorship deal with Burger King. If you uploaded videos of you scoring in a Stevenage shirt you could win prizes.

These are the opportunities that a global following can bring. And it just so happens that the former COO of EA during the period of fastest growth grew up in Wrexham. By the way, if they are not asking him to be chairman then they’re really missing a trick.

Plus, this could finally give Wrexham its first video game appearance since Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.

Social media is a massive factor for modern football coverage and fan engagement. Hashtag United, a club 150 years younger, have 4x higher Twitter and 30x higher Instagram audiences. They have global fan bases, built on endorsements and merchandise.

Wrexham has a very strong, great, local media – which will create a platform for local community engagement which will pack out the stadium, but absolutely have global potential. The university has exceptional production facilities, and a partnership here could help support a talent pipeline creating opportunities for the burgeoning local creative scene.

Wrexham has almost always had local companies sponsoring. Ifor Williams trailers employ 750 people in Corwen – and are a nationwide leader in the industry. The iconic shirts from the Wrexham Lager days, through to the neighbouring university have helped to retain the local community feel. How this will be balanced in the future is a curious question – which sparks another one.

That said, I would be quite happy to see a kit with Fight Milk sponsorship.

What is the long-term plan? How and when will the community take over once the new owners decide they’re done? Whether it is in five years or fifty years, there has to be a succession plan from day one which has a clear exit strategy that benefits the local community.

There are plenty more reasons, created by all of the above, for why Wrexham AFC is a sound investment. The Racecourse’s heritage could host international youth tournaments creating a talent pipeline, youngsters brought in for an opportunity to gain a degree while developing their football career, and with big clubs like Liverpool, United, City, and Everton all just an hour away being an attractive carrot.

This is an exciting time for Wrexham fans, and for the wider community. There’s a very sound rationale for investment now – here’s hoping this is one of the more positive examples of international investment. They’re certainly saying all the right things right now.

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Gareth I. Jones

Founder of TownSq, focused on building communities of entrepreneurs, supporting startups and B Corps - businesses that are better for the planet.