LONDON – The small town of Wrexham in North Wales was once a center of coal and lead mining and was formerly an industrial power station. The decline was reflected in the fate of the professional football team, now four divisions beneath the glitz and glamor of the English Premier League.
But things could change soon for Wrexham Association Football Club as Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds tries to inject some star power.
The Wrexham Supporters Trust – the fan group that owns the club – announced last week that they had received a proposal to buy the team. However, the identities of the potential investors were not revealed until fans voted to continue the discussions on Wednesday.
Only then did they reveal that Reynolds, the star of the “Deadpool” films, was behind the offer, along with Rob McElhenney, actor and creator of the TV series “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”.
“In due course, Mr. McElhenney and Mr. Reynolds will put their vision for Wrexham AFC and a proposal for members to vote,” said a statement on the club’s website. The pair intend to invest more than £ 2 million ($ 2.55 million).
Reynolds confirmed his interest by responding to a 2012 tweet from a fan who wished he would “show up at Wrexham”.
“I waited 8 years to reply to this tweet,” joked the Canadian actor.
Wrexham AFC, which, despite being Welsh, plays in the English Football League, was founded in 1864 and claims to have the oldest international football stadium in the world.
The team has never reached the highs of the Premier League and has struggled lately, slipping into the Vanarama National League – the fifth tier of English football – where an average of just over 2,000 fans and players are often part-time and keep others Jobs to supplement their income.
The working class town seems an unlikely place to pique Hollywood’s interest.
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Traditionally part of the Labor Party’s “red wall”, Wrexham voted strongly for Brexit in 2016 and returned for the first time as a Conservative MP in the 2019 UK general election to re-launch Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party.
“Why shouldn’t anyone care about Wrexham?” Wrexham AFC director Spencer Harris told the BBC Thursday before admitting that the actors’ interest had been a “surreal experience”.
The proposed investment is seen as extremely welcome this year as football clubs across the UK have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Fans were not allowed to participate in games, and for most teams, ticket and game day receipts make up the majority of their income. This month Macclesfield Town – based in the neighboring region of Cheshire and also in the National League – went bankrupt after 146 years of bankruptcy.
However, if Reynolds and McElhenney intend to take the club to the highest levels of English game it will likely cost significantly more than suggested. By comparison, the average squad worth of a Premier League team is £ 390 million ($ 497 million), according to football ratings website Transfermarkt.