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Wrexham AFC – The Future?

For those with an interest in both Hollywood ‘A’ listers and lower league UK football (that’s ‘soccer’ if you’re reading this in the Colonies!), you may have noticed a bit of a media frenzy last week when it was announced that Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney have shown an interest in purchasing ( or ‘investing’ if you read some sources, whatever that means) Wrexham AFC, my home town team that plays in the 5th Division of English football, and initially intend putting £2 million in to the Club.


As opposed to the standard procedure for such a takeover, the history and current ownership of the Club have led to a somewhat convoluted deal, with the Club being fan owned by members of Wrexham Supporters Trust who have for the past 9 years kept the Club afloat without the benefit of a sugar daddy type of owner, and to date seem to have managed finances in a way that makes it a very good prospect in comparison to a large number of other clubs carrying heavy debts and loans from Directors and other sources.


This financial prudence has not been popular with some fans, with monies that they think should be spent on higher standard players actually being spent on maintaining the fabric of the Club, including making certain the bills and staff are always paid on time. However, this has resulted in two things, the continued existence of the Club, and its attractiveness to external investors with an interest in football.


The club itself has a long history, in fact, apart from being the oldest club in Wales, it is also the 3rd oldest professional football club in the world, and play at the oldest continually used international stadium in the World. On the pitch, success has not always been so forthcoming, but the club can point to many giant killing matches in both the domestic trophies, and, over a number of years, also representing Wales in the now-defunct European Cup Winners Cup. In fact, in the later competition even reached a quarter final, losing narrowly to the eventual winners. In the League, the club has only ever managed 5 promotions in its 156-year existence, but have always been seen as an exciting, attacking team representing the community of Wrexham and its surrounding villages.

However, due to the actions of a series of bad owners who basically asset stripped the club of its land with the intention of killing the club off, and building on the historic stadium footprint, the Club was relegated out of the Football League, and to this day is still suffering from the years of austerity necessary to bring it back on an even keel. The fans fought these ‘business men’ over a number of years, and finally managed to gain control of the Club itself, but without any of its assets, and ongoing debts of half a million pounds, and losing a million a year in operating costs. These debts and running losses have now been confined to history, and now it is time to look to the future.


And what is the future? What will the deal be? The two prospective owners have stated in their initial approach that the wish to take over the club for a nominal amount (whatever that may be) and then will pump in an initial £2 million with further investment to come. Given the past history of ‘investors’ promising us the world but delivering less than nothing, fans will be very wary of what the future actually may be. However, looking at the standing of Ryan and Rob, the one thing that they can offer as an insurance of type is reputation.


They have more than enough money between them to take Wrexham AFC very high up the League pyramid and to not need the relatively miniscule money to be made by relocating the Club out of the Racecourse and selling to a supermarket. But if they did do so, the resultant outcry from the whole region would make international news and severely damage their reputation. To be honest, the feelings I get from all the various sources I have, this is an honest attempt to build something special, a project that will make them real life heroes far beyond their Hollywood personas, and will write a story that will live for a very long time in peoples minds and hearts.


It does not mean that we fans should not scrutinise the offers made, balance them against the loss of fans ownership, but if this is for the eventual return of the Club to the levels it deserves to be playing at, we should seize the moment, and throw ourselves behind this adventure, we may never get another chance, and, given the perilous financial state of football in general, it will save us from following Bury, Macclesfield and what I believe will be a growing number of dying clubs in to the history books, leaving us with the spectre of television football being our only contact with what was once our passion and identity.


The future could be the brightest we can imagine, but the first step is one in to the dark. We need to trust again, this is the opportunity we have.


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