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Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney's soccer team wins promotion to professional league

Wrexham owners Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds celebrate with the Vanarama National League trophy after Wrexham won the Vanarama National League on Saturday at Racecourse Ground in Wrexham, Wales.
Jan Kruger
/
Getty Images
Wrexham owners Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds celebrate with the Vanarama National League trophy after Wrexham won the Vanarama National League on Saturday at Racecourse Ground in Wrexham, Wales.

Wrexham, the small British soccer club purchased in 2021 by American actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, has won sufficient games this season to advance to a professional league for the first time in 15 years.

Following a 3-1 victory over a team called Boreham Wood on Saturday, Wrexham has gained promotion — the process by which a club moves into a higher quality playing tier — and starting in August will take its place in League Two, which is actually the fourth highest tier in English soccer.

The town of Wrexham is in Wales, but like several other Welsh soccer clubs it competes in English soccer leagues.

Wrexham's Association Football Club has formed an important part of the community in the small town in northern Wales since its formation in the 1860s, but despite strong support from local residents it has long struggled financially to pay its players and maintain its operations, almost going bankrupt with multimillion-dollar debts around a decade ago.

Jordan Davies of Wrexham celebrates with the Vanarama National League trophy as Wrexham win the Vanarama National League and are promoted to the English Football League after victory at Racecourse Ground on Saturday in Wrexham, Wales.
Jan Kruger / Getty Images
/
Getty Images
Jordan Davies of Wrexham celebrates with the Vanarama National League trophy as Wrexham win the Vanarama National League and are promoted to the English Football League after victory at Racecourse Ground on Saturday in Wrexham, Wales.

The acquisition of the club by Reynolds and McElhenney, however, has sparked a huge surge of interest in the town's soccer franchise, not just in Britain but now globally thanks to a the FX documentary series Welcome to Wrexham, which focuses on the relationship between the soccer club and the town.

The club's promotion to League Two will guarantee some fresh revenue, in the form of an annual payment from the league's authorities that equates to more than a million dollars. There are also potential payments by broadcasters looking to televise games, as well the likelihood of greater ticket sales.

Meanwhile the town itself has enjoyed extra income thanks to a rise in tourism in recent months. Fellow actors have been pictured on visits, including Will Ferrell earlier this year and Paul Rudd, who was on hand to watch Wrexham's victory Saturday.

King Charles and Queen Camilla met with Reynolds and McElhenney on the stadium's soccer pitch late last year. And soccer luminaries including former England player turned BBC broadcaster Gary Lineker tweeted their congratulations while Reynolds and McElhenney hugged players on the pitch after Saturday's victory had sealed the team's advancement.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Willem Marx
[Copyright 2024 NPR]