Perhaps the challenge for Ryan Reynolds, Rob McElhenney, and Wrexham AFC is that they became such a story so quickly, that they all greatly outpaced the documentary about them. Even though the second season of the show hasn’t concluded yet, we all know how it ends. Wrexham put up a record amount of points and gained promotion to League Two in the EFL, and they’re actually doing quite well there now (currently third just a little over a third into the season).
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Knowing that, Welcome To Wrexham has to then color within the lines, and tell all the stories behind it to grip the audience. Which it usually does a great job of. Seeing how the fans who have waited a decade and a half to get out of non-league football and the anxiety of tasting an escape to come, how that pressure is weighing on the players and coaches, the constant push and pull of the anticipation and dread while everyone dreams of promotion and fears the playoffs again. Throwing in a couple episodes documenting the women’s team’s similar chase was another enjoyable aspect of the insight into the whole operation.
Which makes it pretty weird that more often than not, the worst part of the show is the glimpse into the owners’ box.
It’s especially weird because of how charming Reynolds and McElhenney are. They wouldn’t be the stars they are if they weren’t. It’s weird because, mostly, their passion and commitment is in the right place. Whatever their original motivations were, or still are, they have been swept up in what all the supporters have wanted. It’s not exactly two lifelong supporters getting control and running the team like supporters would, but it’s not all that far away either.
Which makes it disappointing that Reynolds and McElhenney still insist on inserting scenes into the show that makes it seem like they’re really sacrificing something or that they’re carrying the cross, when absolutely no one made them do this. The latest episode is perhaps the most egregious example.
In “Hand of Foz,” the build-up to the title decider with Notts County is the crux of the episode. And the show does a wonderful job of showing just how that match, any big soccer match, can not just grip an entire town or city but basically hold it hostage. Any fan immediately recognized how no one’s thoughts could focus on anything else but the upcoming game, and how it was kind of the same for the players. How the mere weight of the match and all its meaning just sits on Wrexham, the place, like an unmotivated rhino. If you’ve been a fan of any team in any sport about to play a huge game, you know the paralyzing feeling leading up to it. You’re boxed in.
Which made it a curious decision to insert a scene, right before the actual match takes place, where Reynolds and McElhenney are sitting in their boardroom with their two main execs bemoaning and wailing about losing $10 million while owning the team. It especially stands out awkwardly when the very next scene is Reynolds and McElhenney accepting a “Freedom Of The Borough” from the city of Wrexham, something of a key to the city. During the ceremony, Reynolds’s speech centers on him not feeling like an owner of Wrexham AFC, but a steward, a caretaker, someone who merely is channeling what the supporters and residents want the club to be. A vehicle for them, as it were.
They can’t be both. They can’t be the guys who are just merely stewards of a public trust like a football club, especially one in a town like Wrexham, and also the guys who complain about what it costs. $10 million? Reynolds is worth a reported $350 million. Sympathies don’t really run to even the level of, “Our ass bleeds for you.”
And none of this should have been a surprise. Wrexham were a non-league club. There’s no TV deal. Sponsorships are bottom-level, which the two have been able to boost with their profile. A whole quarter of the stadium needed to be rebuilt, and that’s just the top of the list.
While they make a big deal of making the club sustainable, and try to run the dual track of how they’ve aborted that in the chase for promotion, we don’t get many details. Why are they losing $10 million? Transfer fees? Salaries for players and coaches? A lack of revenue that was expected from somewhere else? What did that blimp cost that McElhenney wanted to use to prank Reynolds? All of these were their choices, and perhaps the price of promotion given that Wrexham barely outlasted Notts County.
If they’re just stewards of the club, merely meant to steer the ship, then the money lost really doesn’t matter. Certainly, no one wants to hear it. We don’t want to hear it from MLB owners or anyone else in that position. That doesn’t change just because we love Deadpool. Wrexham supporters can’t really do much more than they have. They’ve bought every ticket. They’ve bought the new shirts and club gear as soon as they can get their hands on it. They’ve happily been the subject of the show. It doesn’t seem fair to then make them watch the owners complain about money they’re not getting that they really won’t miss in the long run. Especially when Reynolds, McElhenney, and the show have gone to lengths to make it clear that promotion was all that mattered.
It raises some other uncomfortable questions for the future. While revenue is higher now that Wrexham is in the EFL, the costs are too. Salaries go up, tickets go up, etc. Sure, sponsorships are better now, there’s a TV deal somewhat. But what happens if Wrexham continue on this arc and get promoted again? Sounds great, but are these two prepared and equipped to run a League One club? There are giants in that league.
What if the losses continue? What if there isn’t a profit like they’d hoped? Would it make them desperate enough to sell to someone who didn’t have the scruples they want us to think they have (and probably do, admittedly)? Would they be careful about who they choose to take the club on for the good of the club or just take anyone who has the money to make them whole?
Again, all of these risks and costs should have been obvious in the due diligence portion of the buying of the club. Yes, part of the charm of the show is the wide-eyed nature that both the owners have as they learn about every aspect of trying to steer Wrexham to the promised land. It’s fine if some of it is more than they thought or harder than they thought.
But bitching about money lost? If they’re truly stewards, then that doesn’t matter. And we don’t want to hear it.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @felsgate.bsky.social