‘Welcome to Wrexham’ Is About to Enter ‘Phase 2’ of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s Ownership

Executive director Humphrey Ker tells TheWrap about injecting “a bit of reality” into what’s ahead for the football club

Welcome to Wrexham
Humphrey Ker in "Welcome to Wrexham" (Photo Credit: FX)

The third season of FX’s “Welcome to Wrexham” ends on the unthinkable — with Wrexham A.F.C. being promoted to League One of the English Football League, making it one of the few teams to secure back-to-back promotions. Yet instead of concluding with an uplifting speech from the club’s owners Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds, Season 3 ends with a warning from the club’s executive director, Humphrey Ker.

“I’m excited about League One. But I also think there’s an enormous scope to f–k this up beyond all recognition,” he says in the FX series finale.

“I like to inject a bit of reality to Rob and Ryan’s level of expectation,” Ker told TheWrap. “We’ve been very fortunate. We’ve enjoyed two years of pretty much unparalleled success and we’ve had it very easy so far.”

Ker noted that the docuseries often plays up the club’s “trials and tribulations,” especially in its first season. “But the huge natural advantages we’ve enjoyed the last couple of years start to evaporate the further up the ladder we go. We’re not the big fish in a small pond anymore. The harsh realities of what’s required to run a football club start to come more to the fore,” he explained.

Or, in other words, Wrexham can’t just get away with being lucky. “We have to be good in order to succeed,” Ker said.

Most of the advantages Wrexham has enjoyed thus far have come from their celebrity owners: a bigger budget than other similar clubs, global attention and a large fanbase. But that’s all about to change. Ker admitted, “I think that the first phase of Rob and Ryan’s ownership has come to an end now and we’re moving into phase two.”

That second phase is going to require several investments in infrastructure as well as a push to recruit new players. It also means Wrexham will lose some of its fan advantage.

“We’ll go from being the team with the largest crowds in the division to … somewhere in the middle. You’ve got Birmingham [City], which might get 25,000 people coming. Similar for Huddersfield [Town], similar to Bolton [Wanderers],” Ker said.

Welcome to Wrexham
Paul Mullin in “Welcome to Wrexham” (Photo Credit: FX)

There’s also the complicated issue of the club’s relationship with its fans to consider. On one hand, Wrexham’s increased popularity on a global level is the “secret sauce” to the club’s success. The money made off of people buying shirts, tickets to games and passes to watch matches is put back into the club. Yet at the same time, this intense fanbase means “there’s no way to hide” if the club has a rough season.

“If we do make a fool of ourselves, we can’t do it in relative darkness,” Ker explained. “Everything that we do is going to be under the microscope, which brings added pressure but, as I say, is a result of this brilliant support, which is helping us to power towards our goals and objectives.”

There’s another fan-related issue weighing on the minds of the club: the distance between players and fans. Typically, when a team enjoys more and more success, the separation between players and fans increases. Each year that McElhenney, Reynolds and Ker have run Wrexham, the separation has become bigger.

“That’s just what happens. You look at the largest degree of the Premier League and Champions League teams, and then if you go down the football pyramid, the fans and teams get closer together,” Ker said. “We’ve got to try and preserve that relationship as much as possible. If we start to move away from what we came here for — which was to create, promote and support a community club that plays for its town and and plays for its fans — that’s when we might get in trouble.”

It’s partially due to that shrinking closeness that Season 3 of “Welcome to Wrexham” spent more time focusing on the women’s team than ever before.

Welcome to Wrexham
Lili Jones in “Welcome to Wrexham” (Photo Credit: FX)

“It’s easy to go down the route of being self-righteous and sententious and be like, ‘Well, women’s sports are just as important as men’s,’” Ker said. “But for me, the thing that’s much more compelling is that, on the men’s side, the gulf between the players and the fans gets bigger and bigger. At the moment, where the membrane between fans and players is the thinnest, really, is the women’s team.”

Ker also noted that “almost all” members of Wrexham A.F.C.’s women’s team are fans of the club and from the area. He called their stories “very, very compelling,” adding, “They are being paid to play football for the team they grew up supporting. Every single one of them is living their dream.”

Speaking of living out dreams, as a lifelong football diehard, Ker is unexpectedly doing just that. The whole idea to buy a struggling football club started when Ker introduced McElhenney to the sport while the two were working on the Apple TV+ original, “Mythic Quest.” After falling in love with the sport and recruiting Reynolds as a co-owner, the two tasked Ker with finding a football club they could conceivably buy. That’s how the celebrities came to own Wrexham in 2020.

“The advice that’s given is chase your dreams. But every now and then, your dreams just sort of turn up, whether you chase them or not. It’s rather strange,” Ker joked about his unexpected role as executive director.

Though he’s relatively new to the world of running a football club, Ker doesn’t look to any other clubs as guidance, preferring to try and “find our way ourselves, in our own way.”

“There’s a GPS telling us where to go,” Ker said. “We’re lucky we’re surrounded by lots of people who know what they’re doing, so they give us as much advice as possible. And ultimately, it’s up to Rob and Ryan what we do. We’ll plunge our way forward and see what happens.”

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.