IAN HERBERT: With Hollywood owners, a huge fanbase, marquee sponsors and a huge social media following, Wrexham CAN fulfil Ryan Reynolds’ dream of making the Premier League in 10 years
- Ryan Reynolds is unflinching in his assertion that Wrexham can reach the top
- The Robins recorded an impressive FA Cup draw vs Sheffield United on Sunday
- And co-owner Reynolds says they can get to the Premier League within 10 years
It is the kind of claim that new owners are advised to avoid as they venture into the deeply cynical world of football.
But from the moment he first walked into Wrexham’s stadium, Ryan Reynolds was unflinching in his assertion that the club could reach the Premier League.
‘Why not dream big?’ he said 18 months ago when he and co-owner Rob McElhenney arrived in the North Wales town for the first time. ‘If you don’t dream big, you will never go there, so why not?’
Ryan Reynolds unflinchingly insists Wrexham can reach the Premier League within 10 years
The Hollywood actor co-owns the National League side with fellow star Rob McElhenney
On Sunday afternoon, as the BBC’s coverage of the FA Cup tie with Sheffield United shifted the dial on UK awareness of the club’s Hollywood story, Reynolds put some detail on that.
‘In 10 years’ time, the plan is Premier League,’ he said in a compelling pre-match interview with Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer. ‘Why not? No one has ever done anything great in this world thinking, ‘Let’s go halfway’.’
The doubters included Sportsmail‘s Chris Sutton. ‘They are not going to get to the Premier League,’ he said on BBC Radio 5 Live. ‘We can all have these big pipe dreams that they are going to be in the Premier League. It’s not going to happen.’
The striking number of children (many in red shirts) and an atmosphere which blew the roof off the stadium in the 3-3 draw on Sunday showcased the feelgood factor at the club. The enticing draw with Tottenham in a potential fifth-round tie only adds to the fervour.
The Welsh side secured an impressive 3-3 FA Cup draw against Sheffield United on Sunday
This alone will not deliver three promotions in a decade. Yet the expert analysis is that the Premier League very much is a possibility for Wrexham, if the owners stay and maintain their extraordinary creative output from the town.
‘The Premier League is definitely feasible,’ said football finance expert Kieran Maguire, of Liverpool University. Reasons include the size of the fanbase which made McElhenney and Reynolds interested in the club in the first place.
A new Kop will take the Racecourse Ground, currently a 10,000 sell-out every week, to more than 15,500 capacity. Bournemouth were promoted with far fewer fans — their stadium currently holds 11,379 — and Brentford and Wigan’s support was similar to Wrexham’s when they took the ultimate leap.
But the appeal of what McElhenney and Reynolds have created at the club also allows them to punch above rivals in the transfer market.
Wrexham’s die-hard fanbase is one reason why they can climb through the divisions quickly
‘They are personable and self-deprecating and that makes a very attractive brand to sponsors,’ Maguire said. ‘The football club is able to leverage off the Reynolds and McElhenney factor.’
Salford City, part-backed by Manchester United’s Class of ’92 and yet still marooned in League Two nearly four years after reaching that division, were quoted by Sutton as grounds for pessimism.
But Salford’s list of sponsors underline why Gary Neville and Co, and the club’s main financial backer Peter Lim, are stuck. Just four are currently listed on the club’s website, including a locally-based law firm, a care sector service provider and the company who provides the kit.
By contrast, Reynolds and McElhenney have attracted marquee firms like TikTok and Expedia, paying top dollar for the exposure brought by the documentary Welcome to Wrexham and the running commentary delivered by the co-owners to their huge social media followings.
A new Kop will take the Racecourse Ground, currently 10,000, to more than a 15,500 capacity
Their appeal to TikTok included agreeing to join the social media platform themselves.
‘There’s no way TikTok would be sponsoring without Reynolds and McElhenney,’ added Maguire. ‘For sponsors, there is a double bubble — football matches as they are streamed out and the documentary factor when that comes out.’
Commercial revenue will become more important if the club reaches League Two, where financial sustainability rules only allow clubs to spend 50 per cent of commercial revenues and 100 per cent of one-off boosts like a cup run or transfer fee, as well as whatever equity owners may plough in.
That is why Salford are stuck. It is a similar financial regime in League One and in that division, too, Wrexham and their stardust factor could outspend others. There are no guarantees.
Witness Wimbledon, twice relegated back to Division Four in the early 1980s, during their journey from the Southern League to the old First Division, which they finally reached, nine years after their promotion to the Football League.
For Wrexham, it has been a struggle to escape the National League, with Notts County providing fierce competition this season, as promoted Stockport County did last.
A leap out of the Championship — the Wild West of spending — is a different proposition. Maguire cites the £200million Steve Gibson has invested in Middlesbrough and Steve Lansdown’s £160m at Bristol City.
McElhenney has not dismissed the idea of outside investment. First, there is the small matter of getting out of the National League, with only one automatic promotion place and two defenders injured on Sunday.
But McElhenney, like Reynolds, is an optimist. ‘We’re here now,’ he tweeted on Monday. ‘We’re not going anywhere but up.’
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