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Hollywood Comes To North Wales: Wrexham FC Bought By Rob McElhenney & Ryan Reynolds

welcome to hollywood stampThe story of two Hollywood figures coming to a small non-league club in Wales sounds like something plucked straight from a tinsel town script. However, as crazy as it may seem, that is precisely what has happened at National League Wrexham.

Hollywood A-lister Ryan Reynolds and friend actor, writer and producer Rob McElhenney have just acquired ownership of National League Wrexham.

Incredibly, the pair had only been friends via social media before buying the Dragons and only after buying Wrexham did they meet in person.

How Canadian & American Actors Bought Wrexham FC

rob mcelhenneyThe story goes that while working on the set of Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia, McElhenney observed one of his co-workers, Englishman Humphrey Ker, watching a football game during breaks in filming. The 45-year-old asked Ker about the game and became hooked on the world’s favourite sport.

Reportedly McElhenney enjoyed the series ‘Sunderland till I die’ about the Black Cats struggles. That enjoyment is believed to have led to his interest in buying a football club.

McElhenney then contacted friend Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds, who was keen to be involved.

ryan reynoldsThe pair discussed the idea of buying a football club. Helped by advisors, they saw potential in the then-struggling Wrexham.

The Dragons are the oldest professional association football club in Wales and recognised as the third oldest in the world. It was this history that was part of the pull for the pair. The community aspect also appealed to the duo, as the club is rooted firmly in the community.

McElhenney also claimed that Wrexham reminded him of Philadelphia in the people’s passion for their sports club.

The Horrible Period Of Hamilton

The pair needed permission from the trust holders of the club for the takeover to go ahead. The trust holders had been in charge of Wrexham since 2011. The trust took over the club’s running due to previous owners disrespecting the institution and history.

One of the most notable former owners was property developer Alex Hamilton, who in 2004 decided he wanted to evict Wrexham from their spiritual home, the Racecourse Ground. He gave the Dragons a year’s notice to leave the ground. Hamilton wanted to sell the land the Racecourse was situated on and sell it use for his own developments.

Once Hamilton had become the chairman, he created a separate company to separate Wrexham from the Racecourse Ground, which led to the eviction notice. The news angered Wrexham fans and provoked significant demonstrations.

Hamilton neglected the club’s finances, and in December 2004, the club went into administration, as the Dragons were £2.6million in debt, £800,000 of which was owed to the Inland Revenue.

Against a backdrop of financial peril, Wrexham won silverware in the shape of the Football League trophy, as the Welsh team defeated Southend 2-0 in the final after extra-time.

The fact that the club went into administration saw Wrexham deducted ten points in League One. The deduction led to the Dragons’ relegation to League Two at the end of the season.

The club received some good news in October 2005, as Birmingham High Court ruled that Alex Hamilton had improperly acquired the freehold of the ground. Hamilton took the decision to the court of appeal in London, only for it to be decided that the freehold should remain in the hands of the administrators.

New Owners’ Relegation To Non-League

relegation battleIn April 2006, the administrators agreed to a deal with local businessman Neville Dickens for the club and all its assets.

Wrexham Football Club (2006) Ltd is the name of the “phoenix” company that took over the assets of the old Wrexham Association Football Club Limited – technically, the club is no longer known as Wrexham Association Football Club due to the takeover of the club by Neville Dickens and Geoff Moss and their associates; this is reflected on new merchandise, although most fans will still refer to it as “Wrexham AFC”.

Wrexham struggled to survive in League Two and lost their league status in 2008. The Dragons had been in the English football league for 87 years. Poor financial management had seen the proud club slip into the night of non-league football.

Supporters Trust Bought The Club In 2011

hmrc letter headsIn May 2011, the ownership of Wrexham Football Club ended up in the hands of the Wrexham Supporters’ Trust. However, in April 2011, HMRC served the club with a winding-up order after the Dragons failed to pay a tax bill of around £200,000. The club survived and lost in the semi-finals of the promotion play-offs against Luton Town.

Despite numerous promotion attempts, the Dragons failed to win promotion back to the football league. Although the supporters appreciated the Supporters Trust, they knew that financially the trust was not able to return the club to the Football League, despite their best efforts.

The trust was also unable to purchase the Racecourse Ground freehold either. In August 2011, Glyndwr University completed the freehold purchase of the ground and the club training facilities in Gresford.

In 2016, the trust managed to secure a 99-year lease for the Racecourse Ground, which was then called The Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium. The club renamed it back to the Racecourse Ground, and it was a small victory for the Dragons.

A Hollywood Ending?

to be continued comic hollywood film ending style

As previously mentioned, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney needed the trust’s support to become the club’s new owners. The trust members needed reassurances that the pair would be the right owners to take the Club forward.

After giving their visions for the club’s future via zoom to the trust members, the pair were given the green light to become club owners in December 2020. The trust members confirmed the deal by stating:

“As such – subject to final agreement, league and FA confirmation – the RR McReynolds Company, LLC will take 100% control of Wrexham Football Club Limited from the WST.

“Both parties will now proceed with finalising the details of the takeover, and we will update Wrexham supporters as soon as we can.

“The Wrexham Supporters Trust Board would like to thank Mr Rob McElhenney and Mr Ryan Reynolds, and their advisors Inner Circle Sports and Walker Morris, for their professional and considered approach and for the time they have already put into the process.

“As Wrexham supporters, we would like to wish them the very best of luck in charge of our football club and look forward to what the future brings.

“Finally, to WST members, we would like to thank you for all your support since we took control of the football club in 2011. “We will update supporters in due course as to the future plans for the Wrexham Supporters Trust.”

The pair promised to invest at least £ 2 million into the Welsh club. One of the main concerns for Wrexham supporters was the fact that the Racecourse Ground was allowed to rot due to poor finances under previous management. The Kop stand was left derelict and closed due to safety concerns.

One of the new owner’s pledges on their mission statement was that they would buy the freehold of the Racecourse Ground and reconnect it with the Club. They also had designs for replacing the old Kop with a new state-of-the-art stand and improving the ground as a whole.

While the pair does not appear to be your typical football club owners, they seem committed to the cause, and Reynolds has stated that he wants to grow the club so that one day the Dragons will be playing in the top tier of the English game, the Premier League.

The two Hollywood personalities can certainly grow Wrexham as a brand, which will only be good for the club’s finances and status. A documentary about the takeover and aftermath called ‘Welcome to Wrexham’ will also raise awareness of the Welsh club.

The people and supporters of Wrexham may well be getting their Hollywood ending in the near future after so much turmoil in the last quarter of a century. It would be fair to say they deserve their time in the sun.

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