Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney arrived into Wrexham vowing to restore them to the Football League, turn the club into a global force and make sure they always beat local rivals Chester.
While Wrexham against Chester is not a fixture that will come up anytime soon, the pair have delivered promotion back to the Football League – something Wrexham have been outside of for 15 years – and have helped explode the fanbase, particularly in the United States.
Reynolds changed the broadcasting landscape to live stream every National League match following a fraught – and public – battle with league bosses, while McElhenney has proven to be a wily negotiator.
The question many are asking now is what happens next for Wrexham now that promotion is secured?
Filming for Season Two of award-winning documentary Welcome to Wrexham is nearing its conclusion while players are looking ahead to a first ever US pre-season tour, where Premier League opposition awaits.
Owners Rob McElhenney (left) and Ryan Reynolds celebrated Wrexham’s league title success
The scramble for merchandise is expected to continue, while work is already underway to improve the club’s Racecourse Ground.
Many critics scoffed at McElhenney and Reynolds’ declaration that they are aiming to take Wrexham all the way from the fifth tier to the Premier League, but with sponsorship deals set to rocket, ex-Premier League stars like Ben Foster joining the squad and multiple seasons of the documentary set to be commissioned, the sky appears to be the limit for Wrexham.
Here, Mail Sport looks at what the pair will do now to build on Wrexham’s initial two-year success under their stewardship…
This has been one of Wrexham’s big successes since the takeover.
Phil Parkinson and his management team have had a massive budget but have also used it well across the pitch to bring in stars such as Paul Mullin, Ollie Palmer, Elliot Lee and Ben Tozer from higher divisions.
Palmer, for example, broke the club’s transfer record with his £300,000 switch from AFC Wimbledon, who Wrexham will face in League Two next season, and has been a hit.
‘We have had transfer fees to spend but I am very pleased with the recruitment; the talent but also the characters we’ve brought into the football club,’ Parkinson told local newspaper The Leader this week.
‘This club needed quality players to handle the stage of playing in front of 10,000 fans every week, but also players who are going to go to Aldershot and Woking away, and not be “what am I doing here?”, and make sure they understood that side of it as well.
‘There are so many examples of that. Lads who have got great ability but have dug deep when it’s mattered most as well.’
Recruitment of players such as Elliot Lee (middle) have proven a masterstroke by Wrexham
Paul Mullin arrived as the top scorer in League Two and he is now a cult hero among supporters
Wrexham have been assembling a squad fit for League One – rather than League Two – since the takeover and have a squad currently that will be backed to secure a double promotion.
Many of the team’s biggest names are on long-term deals – Mullin is tied down until 2025 with the option of a further year – and the key now will be Parkinson, along with the help of advisors Les Reed and Shaun Harvey, fine-tuning his team for another title tilt.
One key area to sort is the goalkeeping department.
The arrival of Ben Foster with eight games to go raised a few eyebrows given he had been nine months retired but the 40-year-old has proven a huge hit, making the decisive 95th-minute penalty save against title rivals Notts County in the key game of the run-in.
Foster has been deliberately coy around his future up to this point but let slip on his recent match day vlog in a conversation to Reynolds that we’ll ‘do it again next year’.
Reynolds then jumped off the ground, hugged him and informed Reed that that was essentially a ‘contract’ from Foster to stay.
Both McElhenney and Reynolds are in awe of the former Manchester United and England shot-stopper and it must be incredibly tempting for him to run it back for an entire season.
‘I’ve played seven games now and I feel like part of this team more than any team I’ve ever been in, genuinely,’ Foster said on his own podcast, Fozcast.
Convincing Ben Foster (right) to commit to a full season is high on the owners’ priority list
Reynolds (middle) has made no secret of his bromance with Foster and his desire to keep him
‘I have settled in so quickly. The lads are brilliant and the club as a whole is so welcoming, so warm. The fans have been incredible and that has genuinely sparked my interest like you wouldn’t believe where I am genuinely going to have sit down and think about this now.’
Foster is in the enviable position of having a contract there waiting for him if he wants it but the goalkeeping department will need fleshing out as a whole.
Rob Lainton, the previous No 1 who has been beset by injuries in the last few years, is under contract for 2023-24, but Mark Howard, Rory Watson and reserves’ goalkeeper Kai Calderbank-Park are all on expiring deals this summer.
One of the biggest pluses for the recruitment is that Parkinson has acquired experience and quality in key positions and if the owners’ social media activity is anything to go by they are targeting one of Wales’ all-time greatest players to follow Foster in coming out of retirement.
A video message of congratulations from Gareth Bale to Rob McElhenney has sparked pitches from both the Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia star and Reynolds for him to take his talents to the Racecourse.
‘Hey @GarethBale11 let’s play golf, where I totally won’t spend 4 hours trying to convince you to un-retire for one last magical season,’ McElhenney tweeted.
McElhenney also caused a stir when tweeting that he wants to convince Gareth Bale to sign
Bale was asked about the prospect at the Sports Industry Awards but was unsure on Wrexham
Bale, happy to play along, replied: ‘Depends what course…’
Reynolds then got involved with his own offer: ‘I will shave a professional-grade golf course into Rob’s back if you’ll give Wrexham a season.’
While any marquee move for Bale – who has been priced at 12/1 to join Wrexham – remains highly unlikely, those are two words that don’t get much traction at Wrexham these days given the sheer number of unbelievable things that go on at the North Wales club.
With Jake Hyde, who spent last season on loan at Southend United, on an expiring contract and a loan move mooted for starlet Jake Bickerstaff, a forward spot could be right there for Bale to play a part in the story.
Bale to Wrexham? Probably not… but stranger things have happened.
Squad development is naturally central to the plan to scale their way to the Premier League in as short a timeframe as they can.
But regeneration of the Racecourse ground is of paramount importance to the ownership group.
They have already demolished the derelict Kop end and work will ramp up over the summer to be ready to deliver a 5,500-capacity stand for the 2024-25 season.
Home matches are routinely sold out now and a new stand cannot be built quickly enough to meet the demand. But while next season fans will face similar struggles with a three-sided ground for their first season back in the EFL in 15 years, the season after should ease problems.
A new megastore is part of that development in the new stand while other mod-cons such as a beer wall and new hospitality suites are also in the works as part of the development.
Redevelopment of the stadium is both to be better prepared when rising through the leagues but also to strengthen their case to host Wales international matches.
Days after Wrexham secured the National League title against Boreham Wood, the iconic floodlights, which have been in place for more than 50 years, were taken down. Another symbol of the changing times at the club.
A brand new 5,500-capacity Kop End will begin construction on June 1, ready for 2024-25
Up in their place is a new floodlight scheme capable of delivering ‘a consistent 1500 lux’ – a requirement to meet UEFA’s category 4 stadium regulations.
That level of brightness is required for internationals but Wrexham’s latest investments can be programmed to dial down to a lux level of 350, which is more likely for League Two matches.
The new floodlight towers are 40 metres in height with a forward cantilever of 20 degrees. They are also taller than the existing floodlight towers by 8m.
Wales’ men’s team have only played once at the Racecourse – which famously staged Wales’ first home game in 1877 – in the last 15 years, much to the frustration of Cymru fans in the north.
There is talk that Wales’ friendly against Gibraltar in October could be slated for the Racecourse.
The Racecourse has hosted a record 94 Wales games and part of the plan is to bring them back and normalise having them outside of Cardiff in future.
GROW THE BRAND
This is absolutely huge for Wrexham.
Both McElhenney and Reynolds have been masters in following through on their bold plan to turn Wrexham into a ‘global force’.
Step one was the documentary (more on that shortly); step two was delivering live streaming of matches to keep new fans engaged; step three was merchandise; step four was to take games to the States.
The last point is a major one and one that is being delivered this summer as part of the club’s grand pre-season tour, which will see them face Manchester United in San Diego and Chelsea in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
It has also been mooted that two further friendly games could be held in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, although the club have yet to reveal opponents or locations for those matches.
Wrexham will also have a 7-a-side team featuring in a mini-tournament in Cary, North Carolina.
A US pre-season tour, where they will face Chelsea, is massive for helping grow the brand
The US remains a vast market that Wrexham can continue to make major strides into – and success such as promotion will go a long way to boosting them reputationally.
Reynolds has one eye on the impending growth and earlier this month it was reported that he trademarked the club’s name.
The actor and entrepreneur has been granted copyright protection in the US and the UK for a number of names related to the team, according to the Sun.
‘Wrexham FC’ and ‘Wrexham FC 1864’ have been trademarked in the UK and the US, with ‘Wrexham Is The Name’ also copyrighted in the States, it was revealed.
The Aviation Gin stakeholder also has copyright pending on ‘Welcome to Wrexham’ in the US, the name of the documentary series centred around his purchase of the club and the club itself, which premiered in August 2022.
Copyright will provide security and is a further nod to ownership’s belief of being able to dominate the American market in terms of merchandise and apparel.
One of the biggest frustrations for new US-based fans has been the difficulty in obtaining merchandise, particularly replica kits.
Wrexham were in a tough spot before the first series of the documentary aired in terms of how much stock to hold. There was also global supply problems for clubs right up to the Premier League.
The Welsh side sold 24,000 shirts but Harvey recently told the RobRyanRed podcast that plans are afoot to release 35,000 kits for 2023-24 in a bid to better meet demand.
With season two of the documentary on the horizon, it could even be argued that this remains a conservative projection with more and more fans becoming hooked.
The American market provides huge potential for Wrexham and live matches will make a mark
Getting hold of kits is expected to once again cause a frenzy amid growing new interest
One of the more complicated areas Wrexham will continue to explore as they rise through leagues is how fans outside of the UK can best experience games on a matchday.
Sky Sports hold rights to the EFL – but their broadcast deal, signed in 2018 and running through until 2024, only requires them to select a minimum of 20 games from League One and League Two per season.
Alternatively, fans outside the UK can watch matches on a pay-per-view basis via the league’s dedicated iFollow service, something Harvey helped to introduce during his time at the EFL.
PPV watching is an issue to capturing as many eyeballs as possible – some fandom can be more casual – but it remains unclear whether Wrexham could go on to explore a separate deal to show matches with a US broadcaster.
That would likely require sign-off from Sky and the club have so far made no indication that they would target a separate arrangement for their games.
It is no secret that the success of the ‘Welcome to Wrexham’ documentary has been absolutely transformative for the club.
Millions tuned in across the globe and became besotted by the Welsh team and the ‘underdog’ story of them aiming to rise from the fifth division all the way to the Premier League.
Americans – who have self-confessed Wrexham fever – that have spoken to Mail Sport have pinned much of the interest in the Wrexham story in the promotion-relegation aspect as much as the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood owners.
Welcome To Wrexham, which won the 2022 Critics Choice Documentary Award for best sports documentary, brilliantly charted the English football pyramid and laid out in Season One the long road ahead.
From a storytelling perspective it was clear and also laid out the highs and the lows that would potentially be on offer for those who decided to commit to being a Wrexham fan.
Reynolds and McElhenney released ‘Welcome to Wrexham’ season one documentary last year
Viewers saw wholesale changes to the gym, two attempts to re-lay the pitch, new signings, a new CEO and the agony of a 5-4 play-off semi-final to Grimsby Town that ended their season.
Season Two has been filming all season long and is due to air in autumn, similarly to the airing of Season One, with UK viewers catching it on Disney+ and Hulu holding the rights in the US.
Season One was a roaring success with 18 episodes and the likely scenario is an 18-20 part Season Two, given the manner of what played out this season.
Back in September of last year Wrexham outlined just how transformative the impact of the documentary – which focused on Wrexham as a blue collar town more so than it did the action on the pitch – had on the club itself.
Social media rocketed beyond one million followers across multiple platforms and the club’s retail website saw 185,289 new visitors early on after the first few episodes aired, translating to more than £290,000 in revenue.
John Landgraf, chairman at FX, which commissioned the documentary, has a brilliant relationship with McElhenney and earlier this year the Philadelphia native revealed he had been pestering Landgraf to commission series three and four.
Now that Wrexham have secured promotion it seems inevitable a further two series – one is a near guarantee – will be commissioned, continuing the revenue stream that a multi-episode docu-series brings.
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Sports Event Casino Handicap Description
|PK||0||It means not giving in to each other, and winning 1 point wins all.|
|0-50||0/0.5||Indicates that when the handicap team is tied with the transferee team, the team betting on the handicap loses 50%.|
|0 loss||0.5||Indicates that when the handicap team is tied with the transferee team, the team betting on the handicap loses.|
|1+50||0.5/1||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the team betting on the handicap wins 50% and wins all 2 points.|
|1 level||1||Indicates that when the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the two teams will tie and win by 2 points.|
|1-50||1/1.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the team betting on the handicap loses 50% and wins all 2 points.|
|1 loss||1.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the team betting on the handicap loses all and wins by 2 points.|
|2+50||1.5/2||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the team betting on the handicap wins 50% and wins all 3 points.|
|2 flat||2||Indicates that when the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the two teams will tie and win all 3 points.|
|2 losses||2/2.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the team betting on the handicap loses 50% and wins all 3 points.|
|3+50||2.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the team betting on the handicap loses all and wins all 3 points.|
|3 losses||2.5/3||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the team betting on the handicap wins 50%, and all 4 points win.|
|3 levels||3||Indicates that when the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the two teams will tie and win all 4 points.|
|3-50||3/3.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the team betting on the handicap loses 50% and wins all 4 points.|
|3 losses||3.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the team betting on the handicap loses all and wins all 4 points.|
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