There is no doubt that 2020 has been an unusual time for the whole world.
Fear and worries about the coronavirus are the new normal, with sport far from immune to these issues and pressures at a time of great uncertainty.
How, then, has National League team Wrexham become one of the rarest things of 2020 – a wellness story?
BBC Sport Wales explains how one of the oldest football clubs in the world came to be owned by Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
How did it happen?
The events that brought Wrexham to Hollywood fame overnight began several months ago when Wrexham director Spencer Harris was approached through an intermediary about a possible change in ownership of the club.
Wrexham, which was founded in 1864, has been owned by fans since 2011 when the Wrexham Supporters Trust (WST) took control.
Although the club have struggled in recent years, both on the pitch and financially, they were not actively seeking investments.
Talks progressed well enough that Harris and his fellow directors agreed to sign a nondisclosure agreement with the interested parties, not realizing that the need for secrecy was due to the potential investors being superstars of Hollywood.
When Harris and the rest of the Wrexham Board of Directors discovered that the interested parties were Deadpool and Detective Pikachu star Ryan Reynolds and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia creator and star Rob McElhenney, they quickly realized the size of the opportunity on the market. table.
“This deal, we had to get it and get it while it was on the horizon and I am delighted that we were able to do it,” Harris told BBC Sport Wales.
“They are ordinary people in an extraordinary job. They are very down to earth people. “
The secret went public in September when Wrexham initially raised the issue with their supporters, and in this case the owners, who were to vote on whether to continue with negotiations, with more than 95% of the vote than they should.
After the new bag was released, McElhenney and Reynolds posted about Wrexham on social media, making it clear that this was a serious business and hinting at their plans for the future.
The final pitch came in the form of a video presentation to members of the WST, outlining their ambitions and pledging to invest at least £ 2million in the club they hopes to become a “global force”.
“It’s the third oldest club on the planet and we don’t see why it can’t have global appeal,” Reynolds said. “We want Wrexham to be a global force. “
The pitch was effective, with WST members voting overwhelmingly in favor of the takeover, with 98.6% of those responding supporting the offer.
Out of more than 2,000 members with the right to vote, 1,809 approved, 26 were against and 9 abstained.
Confidence wished the pair “the best of luck in charge” and “look forward to what the future holds”.
As for the players, they were as surprised as everyone else.
“We were told about it a few weeks ago and no one could believe it and I’m not sure anybody can believe it now,” said captain Shaun Pearson.
“All we were told initially was that there was potentially a new buyer and we had no right to know who it was.
“We were told it was a big name and that we would be surprised when we found out.
“We found out the same as everyone when it was announced publicly and no one could believe it. “
“Why Wrexham? Why not! “- Rob McElhenney
While the Comment is easy to explain, the Why may seem more difficult with McElhenney and Reynolds admitting they are far from football experts.
So what exactly brought them to Wrexham?
Certainly, to answer the obvious, the ownership of the fans was a clear factor, with no money needed to take control, allowing more capital for investment.
While none of Wrexham’s new owners claim to be football experts, they are clearly drawn to the idea of a challenge and seem to feel an affinity for the town itself, with McElhenney comparing it to the town of ” blue collar workers ”being similar in his mindset. native of Philadelphia.
Pearson believes the couple were motivated by Wrexham’s modest status, rather than disheartened by it.
“From what I can understand, it was an adventure that they wanted to do and that they had done the basic research,” he said.
“I feel like they looked at other clubs and obviously came to the conclusion that this was the right club for them and that they wanted to go from there and move the club forward. “
Another clear motivation is to produce a documentary about the club, which manager Dean Keates says is “open-minded”.
It has been suggested that the making of the documentary is a key factor in the takeover, but director Harris thinks that’s an unfair accusation.
“I think the documentary fits with their vision and we think it’s an exciting opportunity to take Wrexham’s name to the world,” said Harris.
“Is that the only reason they’re doing it?” I don’t think… there are easier ways to make a documentary! “
Rory Smith, chief football correspondent for the New York Times, said on BBC Radio 5’s Monday Night Club live: “I find this story absolutely fascinating.
“The working theory seems to be that they want to make this documentary.
“By all accounts Netflix is paying somewhere between £ 300,000 and £ 800,000 per hour for content and selling an eight episode series would make Wrexham profitable and transform them.
“So from that point of view, I think there’s something slightly weird about it. “
What happens next?
Having promised to make Wrexham “a global force,” it’s probably necessary to have a sense of the reality of how quickly the Dragons can start flying up the soccer pyramid, even with the Hollywood investment and prospect. of the handover “in weeks rather than months,” according to Harris.
The club are currently 14th in the National League and just one point above the relegation zone, as they tried to return to the Football League for the first time since 2008, having spent 87 consecutive seasons there.
“We also need to temper expectations,” Harris warned.
“We can all get caught up in that fairytale bubble and think we’re going to jump and dance our way through the divisions, but football doesn’t work like that.
“All the teams will want to entrust us now. But I know Rob and Ryan are up for this challenge. “
However, ex-Wrexham player and manager Barry Horne, former Wales international midfielder, has said the sum of money promised to the club will quickly make a difference.
“If £ 2million were invested in one season it would make Wrexham the favorite for promotion,” Horne added.
“That kind of budget would put them very close to the top of the league, if not the top and, of course, money talks.
“With a good budget you should be able to get out of the division and that’s what all the Wrexham fans are hoping for. “
Wrexham fans were pleased with the couple’s transparency about their goals in a mission statement, where they pledged to improve the club’s racetrack house, provide “full financial support to the manager and his coaching staff” and increase club staff.
More importantly, the duo have “guaranteed… that the club cannot be moved, renamed or renamed”.
“When you take everything together, we have a very bright future here,” Harris said.
After years in the doldrums, Wrexham’s happy ending in Hollywood could come sooner rather than later.