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If you haven’t seen the show, Welcome to Wrexham, the basic plot is that the well known (mostly known?) Hollywood actors, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, buy a little small town Welsh football team (soccer, for an American audience). And then they make a docuseries about it.

The docuseries is well done and well produced. Reynolds and McElhenny are producers of the docuseries and poke fun of themselves throughout the show. But the strength of the docuseries is highlighting various individuals in the Wrexham community. There are volunteers, one of whom is in a wheelchair and begins a powerchair league (so fun!), there’s a local pub owner, a painter that lives and dies for the team, a lead singer of a local band going through cancer treatments, and neurodivergent kids that are fans of the Wrexham football club. The series follows a few of the players and coaches as well. The show tugs at the heartstrings of viewers through the community members, while Reynolds and McElhenney emphasize over and over again how much they care about sport and the community of Wrexham.

What’s missing from the series is that this is really about money. Reynolds and McElhenney have no connection to Wrexham at all. It’s a Welsh working class town in north Wales, seemingly plucked out of obscurity. Why did they choose this particular team, out of all teams? Especially when Reynolds is Canadian and lives in NYC, and McElhenney is from Philadelphia but lives in LA…there’s no U.S. team worth buying? I assume that Wrexham had the ‘right storyline’ and perhaps it was more funny or interesting to see an American and Canadian buy a football club when they don’t even know about ‘offsides.’ The show is a mix of serious and comical, and both Reynolds and McElhenney are funny and know comedic timing and how to mug to the camera, of course. They are successful working actors, after all.

They use their social media skills in production as well. Reynolds’ gin company is a sponsor of the team and of course the docuseries is generating financial support and visibility from a worldwide audience. But is that really just for the fun of storytelling? The Wrexham football club is not a non-profit organization, so I assume Reynolds and McElhenney plan to make money from their ownership of the Wrexham football club. But the narrative is that Reynolds and McElhenney love sport and see how connected it is to the community. That the community of Wrexham is hard working, been through a lot, and deserve a good football team that can win enough to move up a division.

I love their story telling – I was moved to tears by a number of the stories of community members and love that part of the show. And Reynolds and McElhenney are genuinely funny and don’t take themselves (or each other) too seriously. The story telling is beautiful and well done, but it’s being done by the owners of the team. Filmmakers will find stories from all over and adapt them…or create their own, and we love to hear stories, told well. But it is something different when the filmmakers, the storytellers, are telling the story of their business, themselves, controlling the narrative to promote their own business and make money. This is a very 21st century way to sell one’s business. Tell a really good story, be authentic, and market that story to make your business successful. I wish Reynolds and McElhenney would be more transparent about this investment as a venture to make money for themselves as well as the team and the town instead of just focusing on the fact that they’re kindly helping out a town and team because the team and town are deserving of this influx of money, investment, and visibility. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with promoting one’s business to make more money, and hats off to people like Reynolds and McElhenney that have the wealth, power, and connections to do this very well.

Sport benefits from an influx of money and financial investment. One cannot buy a winning team, necessarily, but having deep pockets to promote and improve the team, the players, the management, and the stadium makes a significant difference. Of course it does. In the second season, as in the first, there are some voices from the Wrexham community that say they welcome the outside money but are concerned to see if this Hollywood money will stick around in the long term. Will Reynolds and McElhenney invest in Wrexham long term? Or just invest short term, help the team get promoted to the national league…and then sell the team for a profit? I suspect that is the case, and then the docuseries is a useful and well articulated tool to promote the team for the people of Wrexham…and at a profit to the owners.

Photo by Catrin Ellis on Unsplash

Rebecca Koerselman

Rebecca Koerselman teaches history at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA.

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