Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhanney Show the Correct Way to Invest in Football
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Wrexham AFC is the third oldest club in the world, and Wales’s oldest. It’s a club full of history, yet it isn’t what you’d consider successful. Before being taken over by Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhanney, the club found itself playing in the National League, which is step five of the English football pyramid. Now, following its promotion back to the Football League after more than 15 years, the buzz around Wrexham AFC has never been stronger.
It’s fantastic for the people of Wrexham to have their football club back in the Football League; however, I don’t find it much of a shock nor an amazing achievement. A fair amount of money has been spent and the team that’s been built is far too good for the league they were in. Paul Mullin, Wrexham’s striker, could’ve secured a move to the Championship (step two) before he came to North Wales. Ben Foster is a former Premier League goalkeeper who even played for Manchester United. Before stationing Ben between the sticks, Wrexham had Mark Howard, who’s also a fantastic Football League goalkeeper—there’s really no surprise surrounding the club’s promotion.
Did Ryan and Rob buy the league? To an extent, yes, but strangely, I’m fine with this. I actually hate how money is the main factor in how good a football team is, but the actors haven’t just invested in Wrexham’s players. They haven’t just invested in the football club; they’ve also invested in the city of Wrexham. Reynolds donated £1,600 to a local youth football team so it could buy new kits and equipment. Grassroots football is the most important part of the game. Getting children playing and developing an interest in football at a young age is the reason the game is so good in Britain. It proves to me that Wrexham’s new owners didn’t buy the club to make money. They seem to genuinely care about Wrexham as a whole, not just the team.
Manchester United is obviously a huge football team. It was taken over by the Glazers—very rich American businessmen who also own NFL team Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They invested huge sums of money into the club but only into the team. Old Trafford is the biggest club football stadium in the country, but it’s a shell of what it was in its former glory. Its rusty and incredibly outdated. The Glazers have taken no interest in the surrounding Manchester community either. It’s all about making money with them—which they do. Astronomical amounts, every year. Compare this to Manchester City’s owners. Yes, the reason they own the club is most likely for sports-washing reasons (i.e. as a way to make dodgy money more legitimate). This isn’t great and I’m not, for one minute, defending this, but what they have done is invested in the wider community too. They’ve created the best youth football facilities in the country, which will only make our national team stronger. They’ve developed what was quite a run-down area around the ground into a state-of-the-art facility that will only be further improved upon over the next couple of years.
Newcastle United is another example of good investment. The city as a whole is being improved—I see it every day, now that I live here for university. They haven’t just gone out and spent money, changing everything about the club. They ask supporters for their input. They’re trying to improve outdated facilities, and they’ve reintroduced excitement amongst the fans. Football is central to a lot of working-class communities and Newcastle United is proof of this, more than any other city in my opinion. The club was mismanaged for years, but it’s now under new ownership and entire Newcastle communities seem to have improved.
What impresses me the most about Ryan and Rob’s investment in Wrexham AFC is the way they’ve gone about it. They could’ve bought an already established Football League club; instead, they bought a historic club that needed a little love and TLC. They’ve fully bought into the culture of the area and have, in truth, improved the lives of the people of Wrexham. I appreciate that might sound silly, but, to many people, football controls their lives and moods. When your team can finally be competitive again after so many years, that truly is a great feeling—one that I can’t describe to non-sports fans.