Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s takeover of non-league side Wrexham earlier this year left most football fans bemused. But it’s likely it would never have happened had it not been for an English comedian.
Hi, I’m Andrew – and this is Playmaker.
One story every day to make sense of the world of football.
Today, the most talked about takeover in Welsh football history – the Hollywood A-listers who came to Wrexham…
“Our first full season as Wrexham owners has begun. Yet many people still don’t know where Wales is.”
“That’s right Rob, so we’re here with a little geography lesson…”Ryan Reynolds, Twitter
It is a takeover of a football club that still has fans scratching their heads and rubbing their eyes in disbelief.
Hollywood A-listers Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s buyout of National League club Wrexham earlier this year is, on the face of it, a leftfield decision.
The acquisition of the fifth tier Welsh side is like something out of, well, a film – one famous actor is inspired by a documentary on TV about an out-of-luck football club, and decides to find a team of his own to buy to change their fortunes.
He enlists the help of another wealthy actor, and all of a sudden they’re taken out of their American mansions and plonked in the middle of a North Wales market town.
Hello, my name is Rob McElhenney.
My name is Ryan Reynolds.
Helo, fy enw i yw Rob McElhenney.
Fy enw i yw Ryan Reynolds.
This is Maxine, and she is our Welsh translator.Ryan Reynolds YouTube
What you’re listening to there is Rob and Ryan promoting the documentary they’re making about buying Wrexham, accompanied by a translator, in an attempt to integrate themselves in the Welsh language and culture.
It’s a funny clip, which has underlined much of their PR activity since buying the club.
Last week, it was announced that Wrexham were going to be added to the video game FIFA 22 – the first time ever a non-league football club has been included in the vastly popular game.
If you go to a game at their home, the Racecourse Ground, you’ll see their shirts emblazoned with TikTok as their front of shirt sponsor.
So there’s Rob, and Ryan, in Wrexham – but it’s likely none of this would have happened had it not been for one English comedian…
“During lockdown, everyone was looking for a project, and lots of people decided to make sourdough bread, or learn things on Duolingo, and Rob decided to buy a football club…”Humphrey Ker, Absolute Radio’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Football
That’s Humphrey Ker.
You may have heard of him, you may have not.
He’s been on TV and radio a bit in the UK, but history may judge him as being most famous as the man responsible for bringing Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney to North Wales.
But how did it all come about?
Humphrey’s been a writer on the Apple TV show Mythic Quest, starring, you guessed it, Rob McElhenney.
In breaks in filming, Humphrey would be watching football matches and documentaries to while away the time on set, which is where Rob comes in.
Rob would apparently tease Humphrey about liking football as much as he did, but over time the actor would start to understand why he enjoyed it.
Then, last year, lockdown. Actors, and people involved in the industry couldn’t work, so Humphrey sent Rob a load of football documentaries to watch – and that was the tipping point.
After watching the tragi-comedy that is the now-famous Sunderland ‘Til I Die, Rob began to think he could see himself as a football club owner.
Humphrey says: “Rob just fell in love with it. He texted me back the next day and said, ‘Right let’s buy a team’”.
So the pair started talking, and Rob enlisted the help of Ryan Reynolds – who, incredibly, he’d never even met before in real life but had exchanged DMs and social media chats with – to get onboard, knowing that he has decent marketing know-how about him.
Rob emails Ryan, asks if he wants to help out, and gets a simple reply: ‘I’m in.’
After scouring clubs that fitted the pair’s criteria, Humphrey hit upon Wrexham to approach to see if they’d be interested in selling up.
It’s quite a hard offer to say no to, let’s be honest, and earlier this year the deal was done.
Soon it may always be sunny in Wrexham – although their new owners are quickly discovering that whilst off-the-pitch exercises are all well and good, what really matters are the results.
They fell short of the play-offs last season, finishing one point behind seventh placed Bromley, and this season hasn’t started in the way their owners would have hoped – they’re eighth, after seven games. It is, of course, still early days in the season.
Getting back into the football league is priority number one – Wrexham have languished in the National League for 13 seasons now, which is too long when you consider they were in the football league for nearly 90 years straight.
They are the third oldest professional football club in the world, so it’s about time they had some of that Hollywood redemption narrative back in North Wales.
And who knows, had it not been for an English comedian, it may never have happened.
Today’s episode was written by Andrew Butler, and produced by Imy Harper.