Don't be jealous! Ryan Reynolds & Rob McElhenney buying Wrexham has been good for British football
A 3-1 win over Boreham Wood finally clinched the National League title for Wrexham, providing a Hollywood ending to one of the most incredible seasons in non-league history.
Since Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney shocked the world by taking over the unfashionable Welsh club, the Red Dragons have attracted adoration from around the world.
Fuelled by the success of the immensely-popular 'Welcome to Wrexham' docuseries, as well as a fascinating rivalry with Notts County, interest in their exploits only increased this season.
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However, that is not to say that everyone has been charmed by non-league's most unlikely owners. Since their promotion was confirmed, debates have been raging about whether Wrexham's story should be celebrated or dismissed as simply another example of 'financial doping' in football.
While they have indeed spent a lot since taking over, the positives far outweigh any potential negatives that have accompanied the Hollywood stars rocking up in the National League.
Let GOAL outline why these kill joys are wrong about Reynolds' and McElhenney's ownership...
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Reawakening a sleeping giant
The starting point when defending this controversial takeover must be that if any side deserved a break, it was Wrexham.
This is a club with a rich, interesting history. The Racecourse Ground - where they play their home fixtures - is the oldest international football stadium still in use today, and it has hosted more Wales games than any other venue. Prior to their relegation in 2008, the Red Dragons had enjoyed an uninterrupted 87-year stay in the Football League, testament to the strength of their support and on-field pedigree.
After that catastrophe, the club had been expected to bounce straight back up, but this sleeping giant would end up staying in non-league for over a decade.
Things could have been a whole lot worse too, if it wasn't for the heroic efforts of their supporters in 2011. After several years of financial problems, the Wrexham Supporters Trust finally completed their purchase of the club from much-maligned former owners Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts.
They steadied the ship in the years that followed, but struggled to provide the level of investment required to get Wrexham out of an extremely-competitive National League. They might have finally got the job done in the 2019-20 season, only for the pandemic to curtail their efforts. Not long after this, news of the Hollywood takeover broke.
Reynolds' and McElhenney's money has given Wrexham the opportunity to return to their natural level on the pitch and also safeguard their future off of it, with the new owners purchasing the leasehold for the crumbling Racecourse Ground and planning developments.
It would take a stone-hearted football fan to say that Wrexham fans do not deserve it after rallying to save their club when hope was dwindling.
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Uplifting the community
It's not just the on-field success that has made Reynolds and McElhenney so beloved in Wrexham. The Americans have also fully embraced and uplifted the local community.
The pair's acts of generosity are too numerous to list in their entirety here. A few highlights include them matching food bank donations in December 2022, donating £10,000 to a charity fundraiser after the death of Wrexham player Jordan Davies' baby, and Reynolds funding Deadpool-inspired football kits for a local Under-12s team. The owners' support of the women's team also resulted in promotion in April.
The fact that the owners have been so visible in their support of the team, despite both having extremely busy schedules and being based over 5,000 miles away, should not be underestimated either.
There are countless absentee-chairmen across the footballing pyramid, but Reynolds and McElhenney have always operated transparently and been accessible to fans. Even without the investment, this makes a welcome change to the way many other clubs operate.
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Raising the profile of the National League
Wrexham's story has brought an unprecedented level of interest to the fifth tier of English football over the past two seasons.
This was never more evident than when the Red Dragons finally faced off against long-time promotion sparring partners Notts County in April. Heading into the fixture, both teams were on 100+ points, with the game essentially being a straight shootout for the sole National League promotion spot.
Wrexham eventually triumphed 3-2, in a truly incredible game for neutrals where Ben Foster saved a penalty in second-half stoppage time to make sure of the three points.
After the dust had settled, some incredible stats emerged, revealing a scarcely-believable level of engagement. Overall, the match attracted 61,923 mentions on Twitter - even more than Liverpool vs Arsenal, which was played one day prior.
In addition, the full-time announcement graphic from the Racecourse Ground attracted 10.5 million Twitter views, over double what the Liverpool and Arsenal accounts garnered combined for their game!
In addition, Google Analytics data shows that those based in the United States have conducted more searches for Wrexham than for a string of Premier League clubs at times over the past 12 months.
Without Reynolds and McElhenney, this simply does not happen. And if even a fraction of those who have followed Wrexham's story decide to visit their local lower-league club as a result, it could have a drastic effect on the footballing pyramid.
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Speeding through long-awaited changes
Reynolds' and McElhenney's influence has also encouraged National League administrators - who have attracted significant criticism in recent years - to implement a series of rule changes.
For instance, at the start of the season, Wrexham successfully lobbied FIFA to rescind an anomalous rule that prevented the club signing players outside of two allotted transfer windows. Unlike other National League sides, who can register new signings at any point until the fourth Thursday in March, the Red Dragons' unique status - they play in the English league system but are administered by the Welsh FA - meant they operated under far more restrictive conditions.
That is not the only time they have taken on the National League and won. Back in August, Reynolds blasted the decision to prevent Wrexham's international supporters from watching their games via a club-led streaming service.
"After months of maximum effort, the decision (through inaction of the Vanarama National League) to not allow domestic/international streaming of matches of Wrexham and the other clubs in the league is truly baffling," he tweeted.
"Depriving every team in our league the chance to expand the fanbase while adding to league revenue benefits everyone. This is a spotlight and a chance and we ask the National League to take it. And we urge Vanarama and BT Sport to help them find the wisdom to do so."
A few months later, the National League Player was launched, a pay-per-view service that allowed international fans to watch their favourite teams in action every week. It has been a roaring success.
Lastly, Reynolds and McElhenney have consistently, and very publicly, supported calls for the National League to receive an additional automatic promotion place. While not everyone agrees with this stance, reports suggest that the change is likely to come soon - again demonstrating the influence Wrexham's high-profile owners have had on the non-league game.
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Notts County spent money too
One of the principal criticisms of Wrexham's promotion is that the owners' lavish spending had deprived 'sensible' Notts County of their rightful place in the Football League.
The Magpies could still secure their EFL return through the play-offs - which they will be heavy favourites for after a record-breaking campaign - but using them as a stick to beat Wrexham with is a little bit silly.
Players of the quality of Macaulay Langstaff, Jodi Jones, John Bostock and several others certainly don't come cheap at this level, and neither do managers like Luke Williams.
While it would be unfair to suggest County are being run unsustainably - they possess the infrastructure to survive and potentially thrive one if not two leagues above after all - they definitely are not run on a shoestring budget.
It would be extraordinarily harsh if they didn't go up this season, but that isn't necessarily Wrexham's fault. They are simply proving an age-old rule of football. Namely, the team will the biggest wage budget normally wins the league.
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Not had it all their own way
Naysayers have often characterised Wrexham's promotion as a foregone conclusion. This ignored the various setbacks Reynolds and McElhenney have had to endure since taking over the club.
The 2021-22 season was far from a cakewalk, with the team suffering a crippling double heartbreak at the end of the campaign.
First, their day out at Wembley was ruined when Bromley beat them in the FA Trophy final. Even more damagingly, Wrexham then lost in the National League play-off semi-finals to eventually-promoted Grimsby Town.
After that, there was questions about how they would be able to respond, as well as speculation over the future of manager Phil Parkinson.
Unlike some other big-spending American owners higher up the leagues, Reynolds and McElhenney kept faith and were rewarded with promotion - something they have had to graft for since arriving in north Wales.
This just isn't sportswashing
One particularly unfair criticism levelled at Wrexham's owners is conflating them with the similarly big-spending ownerships at the likes of Manchester City, Newcastle and, prior to Roman Abramovich's departure, Chelsea.
In these instances, the ownerships have clear and rather sinister intentions of using their investment in football as a way of laundering their reputations on the world stage.
Reynolds, a world-famous and beloved Hollywood star, and McElhenney, the co-creator of the longest-running live-action sitcom of all time, have no need for this. Although the pair have never given an entirely straight answer as to why they chose to invest in Wrexham, it seems like their ownership was born of a desire to have some fun, and this initial interest has developed into a deep-rooted and heartfelt connection to do right by the community.
Yes, if you're a fan of a National League club, it must have been frustrating to watch the famous pair get all the attention as they splashed the cash. However, imbalancing the competitiveness of a fifth-tier football league just isn't the same as sportswashing, and these comparisons are lazy, unhelpful and unfair.