Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s purchase of a small Welsh soccer team has consistently been portrayed as the ultimate Cinderella story, not least in the pair’s glossy Disney+ documentary which shows them trying to revive the hopes of a former mining town.

But the release of the League Two club’s latest accounts is a reminder of the financial clout the actors have brought with them to help Wrexham consistently crush its closest opposition. 

In the year ending June 2023, Wrexham AFC recorded losses of £5.1 million ($6.4 million), a big jump on 2022’s figure of £2.9 million ($3.7 million).

Those losses have been funded from the deep pockets of Reynolds and McElhenney. The club currently owes the pair £8.98 million ($11.3 million), with the increase in debts last year corresponding to Wrexham’s losses. 

“These losses were deemed necessary to allow the Club to maximise its full potential in the shortest time practically possible,” the club said as it announced earnings last week, adding there is no immediate rush to repay the pair their loan to their owners. 

Indeed, rising losses are mostly a result of a massive surge in spending on salaries by the club. 

Wrexham’s wage bill jumped more than 70% to £6.9 million ($8.7 million) in 2023. 

That’s despite the club taking in just £10.5 million ($13.2 million) in revenues last year. 

‘Movie star money’

The It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star has said he became fascinated with the pyramid format of the English soccer system, which differs greatly from the franchise model operating in U.S. sports in that it feasibly allows any club to rise to the top division.

McElhenney, however, joked that he needed “movie star money” in order to make his dream of pulling a team through this league pyramid a reality, hence calling on Reynolds, who is also a highly successful entrepreneur, to help fund the project. 

The pair have used their star appeal and comedic chops to create viral social media videos and an Emmy award-winning documentary series, Welcome to Wrexham, which they have turned into sponsorship agreements that Wrexham’s rivals could only dream of.

United Airlines is Wrexham’s front-of-shirt sponsor, replacing a previous agreement with TikTok.

But income from these channels still appears well below the team’s outgoings. 

Wrexham signed players including star strikers Paul Mullin and Ollie Palmer from teams playing in a league two tiers above Reynolds’ and McElhenney’s club.

To attract them and others, the pair paid salaries well above the market rate for the National League division Wrexham played in last season.

Opposing fans have grumbled that despite their popular public profiles, Reynolds and McElhenney’s behavior is anti-competitive and more in line with the much-maligned state-backed operations in England’s Premier League.

After gaining promotion to League Two last year, Wrexham is now on track for another jump to League One, as the club sits in one of the automatic promotion spots as the season nears its conclusion.

Despite some controversy around the mountain of cash plowed into the club in the last couple of years, there is a growing expectation that the club will become self-sufficient as football operations regulate. 

Revenues at the club doubled last year, mainly thanks to a big jump in retail revenues tied to shirt sales. 

Signing off its financial results, Wrexham teased that it expected much better financial results for the conclusion of this soccer season, with proceeds from the Welcome to Wrexham documentary going towards getting the club closer to the top of that pyramid.

Subscribe to the new Fortune CEO Weekly Europe newsletter to get corner office insights on the biggest business stories in Europe. Sign up for free.

Comments are closed.