Right now, buying a Wrexham Association Football Club (AFC) team home jersey is impossible. The item’s scarcity is thanks to the efforts of actors Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) and Rob McElhenney (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), who moved to purchase the once obscure soccer team in 2020 for $2.5 million.
The team hails from the city of Wrexham in Wales, just a little over an hour’s drive from Manchester, England. Although Wrexham AFC was founded in 1864 and is the third oldest professional soccer club on the planet, in recent years it has struggled in the National League, five tiers below the Premier League, which is home to Manchester United and its star Cristiano Ronaldo.
Nevertheless, since the infusion of Hollywood star power into the team’s ownership ranks, Wrexham AFC has secured high-profile sponsorship deals with TikTok and Expedia, both represented on its jerseys.
A docuseries called Welcome to Wrexham, which details the efforts of the two actors to help the team ascend the soccer rankings began airing on FX in the US and Disney+ in the UK in August.
The opening of Welcome to Wrexham unpacks how McElhenney’s interest in professional soccer was stoked on the set of his Apple TV+ series Mythic Quest by one of the show’s writers, Humphrey Ker, a British soccer fan who now serves as Wrexham AFC’s executive director. Walking viewers through his childhood neighborhood of south Philadelphia, McElhenney points to Wrexham’s working class culture as one of the things that helped him forge a connection with the team.
Next to his initial investment, Reynolds has become the leading pitch man for the team, adding it to his list of Deadpool humor-tinged promotions for his Aviation Gin and Mint Mobile investments. In the new teaser for Marvel’s Deadpool 3, with Hugh Jackman (returning as Wolverine), Reynolds subtly injects Wrexham AFC into the mix by wearing the team’s hat during one scene. The video, posted on his personal YouTube channel, has already amassed 13.4 million views.
When Reynolds bought a stake in Aviation Gin in 2018, his involvement raised the profile of that brand, which sold for $610 million to international beverage company Diageo in 2020. The actor maintains his ownership stake in the company, which is now a sponsor of Wrexham AFC, and he has even added special edition versions of the gin and its merchandise to the team’s website, most of which, like the jerseys, have sold out.
Nearly two years since the purchase, Reynolds and McElhenney have continued to push the team and its efforts on social media. Welcome to Wrexham, which runs until Oct. 12, has been well reviewed by critics and viewers alike. Additionally, sales of the team’s merchandise have spiked from roughly $67,000 last year to $405,000 (the population of Wrexham is only 136,000).
The ultimate goal of the team and the stars behind it is to get Wrexham AFC to the top of professional soccer in the UK, allowing them to play in the Premier League. In previous seasons, Wrexham AFC has generally ended its season either in the middle or lower ranks of the National League. But since Reynolds and McElhenney took over, last season (2021-2022) the team finished second overall, and as of now the team is ranked number one in the league.
For Reynolds and McElhenney, the effort may seem largely altruistic, but the actors stand to benefit along with the athletes if the team can one day enter the Premier League. In a recent report, management consulting company Deloitte projected that the soccer clubs in the Premier League are on track to pull in a combined $6.7 billion for the 2022-23 season, 30% of which will be comprised of exactly the kind of sponsorship deals Reynolds excels at leveraging.