Wrexham levels up: What to know about the celebrity-owned soccer club



Welsh soccer club Wrexham, owned by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, has pulled off a Hollywood-worthy season ending by securing promotion to the English Football League after 15 years competing at a primarily semiprofessional lower level.

McElhenney — best known for co-creating and starring in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”wiped away tears after a 3-1 victory over Boreham Wood on Saturday clinched the title for the National League, the fifth tier of English soccer. The duo finalized their purchase of the Red Dragons — for a reported $2.5 million — in 2021. The buy kicked off an unlikely journey for a once-struggling team that has since drawn a bevy of celebrity supporters and become the subject of a Disney documentary.

Here’s everything you need to know about why a soccer club from a city of some 60,000 is making global news.

What happened to Wrexham under the ownership of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney?

Wrexham takes its name from its hometown in northeastern Wales, which has a history of coal and lead mining. (It is one of a handful of Welsh teams to compete in the more lucrative English league.) It has a claim to being the world’s third-oldest professional soccer team, though the club has recently relied more on hometown passion than on-pitch success for sustenance.

Before Reynolds and McElhenney took over, the club was in a low period, struggling financially and on the field. But the new owners hired Phil Parkinson as manager and poured money into fresh signings, including the forward Paul Mullin, who scored two of Wrexham’s goals on Saturday. Sponsorship deals were signed with TikTok, Expedia and others. The team finished in second place last season, narrowly missing out on promotion.

Since the ownership change, Wrexham games have almost rivaled L.A. night clubs for glitzy attendance. Will Ferrell, Emma Corrin, Paul Rudd and Reynolds’s wife, Blake Lively, are among the celebrities who have recently been spotted cheering on the side. In December, King Charles III and Queen Camilla visited the stadium.

“Welcome to Wrexham,” a documentary about the club that got praise from critics, aired last year on Disney’s FX. Reynolds has also engaged in a lighthearted Twitter beef with “Ted Lasso,” the comedy about an American navigating the world of English soccer.

These days, it’s always sunny in Wrexham

The Cinderella narrative has led to a 921 percent increase in the club’s social media followers, and tickets to big games now sell out within hours, according to Wrexham. The club sold 24,000 shirts this season, a figure it called “unprecedented.”

What does it mean for a soccer club such as Wrexham to be promoted?

In most of the world — though not the United States — soccer teams compete in different leagues depending on their results. They ascend or drop in line with their position at the end of each season. Promotion to a higher league means more revenue from TV deals and sponsorships, and relegation to a lower tier is often as costly as it is heartbreaking.

In 2008, Wrexham was demoted from the English Football League. It finished 19th out of 24 teams only three years ago, and a return to the big time seemed very far away.

But starting next season, it will compete three levels below England’s Premier League, which is home to 20 clubs including Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United. The Football League, which consists of three tiers, is directly below. Then comes the National League, where Wrexham has been playing.

It was this structure that led McElhenney to take an interest in buying a U.K. soccer team in the first place, he told The Washington Post in December. “I just found it so fascinating that a club could ascend through the ranks from the lower leagues up to the top or from the top down to the bottom,” he said.

What other celebrities own soccer clubs?

Reynolds and McElhenney join a tradition of recognizable names investing in soccer clubs. Elton John bought Watford in 1976, stewarding it from the fourth tier to the first. He later sold it, bought it back and then sold it again.

LeBron James has a minority stake in Liverpool, while actor Eva Longoria and former Arsenal star Mesut Ozil are part of a consortium that owns a stake in Mexican club Necaxa.

Angel City, the first women’s soccer team based in Los Angeles in over a decade, was co-founded by a group that includes actor Natalie Portman. Its star-studded investors list includes Longoria, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, actors Uzo Aduba and Jessica Chastain, and musician Christina Aguilera.

An HBO docuseries about that team’s founding, which is executive-produced by Portman, will air next month.





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