Are Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds the Gyoungest owner ever? Or maybe a suitable superlative: GOOAT? For Wrexham football fans, that answer would be a resounding yes. In their second year as club owners, the Hollywood stars officiated in a men’s team championship and secured promotion to the English Football League for the 2023-2024 season – the club’s first time in 15 years.
But not only the men’s team celebrated a title win. The women’s and the boys’ and girls’ youth teams also won their respective divisions. The quadruple success story began in 2020 when the duo bought Wrexham AFC and like any good Tinseltown story, in their first year as owners they turned the cameras and aptly spotlighted a small, deeply passionate Welsh community in an 18 episode documentary entitled “Welcome to Wrexham”.
Despite their popularity, McElhenney and Reynolds took a backseat to their on-camera appearances and put the townspeople at the center. “It was part of our mission statement that we wanted to be part of their story. We didn’t want to drag them into ours,” says McElhenney. “Every conversation we had about the documentary approach centered on that. Our field producer Milos [Balac] settled in Wrexham for two years. He kept asking the city who was interesting and who we should talk to next.”
The emotional meaning of “Welcome to Wrexham” is driven by the stories of the community and their love for the club. We meet Kerry Evans, a disabled volunteer responsible for making the stadium and facilities fully accessible. Shaun Winter, a third-generation team supporter and house painter, talks about his breakup, his love for his children, and his passion for the team. Arthur Massey, a 91-year-old fan, shares what the club means to the community.
“We were looking for the truth,” says McElhenney of filming the series. “We wanted something that authentically reflected the experience, and we were looking for stories from anyone who felt like an outsider or who was marginalized or overlooked.” In this way, a serious group of people find their way onto the screen that is relevant to everyone watching at home is undeniably understandable. “We approached it with so much respect and admiration,” adds Reynolds. “After doing a little research and snooping around, we realized it was a special city. But I don’t think we fully realized how special it was and how much it would grow on our hearts and souls over the course of this journey.”
The connection McElhenney and Reynolds have with the Wrexham community is palpable. We’re seeing firsthand the impact it’s having on them as owners. “We don’t operate on an experiential platform,” says Reynolds. “I don’t know what an owner is supposed to do in a stadium on match day. I know you want to make sure you create the best possible environment for the players, staff and everyone else including the groundsmen who keep the stadium running. Otherwise I mostly wander around like a lost uncle.”
What McElhenney and Reynolds are particularly good at is building team awareness. Whether it shoot a hilarious commercial When Reynolds takes on star player Paul Mullin for calling him an idiot, or when the two actors take to social media to cleverly announce kits and sponsorship deals, the city of Wrexham and the club’s success is noticed.
“We see ourselves as administrators of the club. “Any lower-tier club that is intrinsically linked to the community, like Wrexham, will tell you that the owners are local and supporters of the club,” says Reynolds. “The reason Wrexham has been successful, at least on the pitch, is because Rob and I generally don’t get involved. We hired people with extensive football knowledge.”
Another highlight of the series is the bonds formed through sports – a theme that culminates in an episode called “Wromance”. “Binding through sports is a really important aspect of male relationships,” notes McElhenney. “So many of the relationships I’ve built over the years have been based on supporting a sports team.”
Prior to ownership, McElhenney and Reynolds barely knew each other. It’s a budding friendship that blossoms throughout the series. “Rob and I really love each other,” says Reynolds. “We’d spoken and talked before, but we never spent much time together. We’re so different that we grow each other, and we’re so alike that we approach things with real alignment and the same work ethic. That’s something I’ll always respect about Rob, he’s absolutely tireless at something he’s passionate about.”
Fans will have to wait until season two (slated to air later this year) to watch the team lift their championship trophy aloft – a moment McElhenney and Reynolds hailed as the greatest achievement of their lives outside of their immediate ones denote families. “That’s the beauty of this whole endeavor,” says McElhenney. “The end goal is not to get promoted to League One, the Championship League or even the Premier League, but to continue exploring the history of Wrexham. And there are just endless stories.”