LONDON — Once a hub of coal and lead mining, the small town of Wrexham in north Wales used to be an industrial powerhouse. Its decline has been mirrored by the fortunes of its professional soccer team, which now sits four divisions below the glitz and glamour of the English Premier League.
But things could be about to change for Wrexham Association Football Club, as Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds looks 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. But they did not reveal the identity of the potential investors until fans voted to proceed with the discussions on Wednesday.
Only then did they reveal that Reynolds, star of the “Deadpool” movies, was behind the bid, along with Rob McElhenney, the actor and creator of the TV series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
“In due course, Mr. McElhenney and Mr. Reynolds will put forward their vision for Wrexham AFC and proposal for members to vote on,” a statement posted on the club’s website said, adding that the pair intended to invest over 2 million pounds ($2.55 million).
Reynolds confirmed his interest by responding to a tweet from 2012 from a fan wishing he would “turn up in Wrexham.”
“I’ve waited 8 years to respond to this tweet,” the Canadian actor joked.
Yep, you never know. https://t.co/PuIghab8Mg
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) September 23, 2020
Wrexham AFC — who, despite being Welsh, play in the English soccer league — were founded in 1864 and lay claim to having the oldest international soccer stadium in the world.
The team has never reached the heights of the Premier League and in recent times has struggled, slipping down to the Vanarama National League — the fifth tier of English soccer — where attendance averages just over 2,000 fans and players are often part time, holding down other jobs to supplement their incomes.
The working-class town would appear to be an unlikely place to attract Hollywood interest.
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Traditionally Wrexham has been part of the Labour Party’s “red wall,” but it voted resoundingly for Brexit in 2016 and returned a Conservative member of Parliament for the first time in the 2019 U.K. general election, helping to propel Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party back into office.
“Why wouldn’t somebody be interested in Wrexham?” Spencer Harris, director of Wrexham AFC, told the BBC on Thursday, before conceding that the actors’ interest had been a “surreal experience.”
The proposed investment will be seen as extremely welcome this year as soccer clubs across the U.K. have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Fans have been forbidden from attending matches, and for most teams, ticket and game-day revenues provide the bulk of their income. This month, Macclesfield Town — based in the neighboring region of Cheshire and also in the National League — went bust after 146 years of play.
However, if Reynolds and McElhenney intend to take the club into the highest reaches of the English game, it is likely to cost substantially more than what they have proposed. For comparison, the average value of the playing squad of a Premier League team is 390 million pounds ($497 million), according to the soccer player valuation website Transfermarkt.