It was during a phone call in May with the mysterious investors hoping to buy Wrexham that Spencer Harris twigged. “There was a guy called Rob on the call and from one or two of the things that he said, I guessed who he was. I kept that to myself for a couple of weeks,” he admits with a chuckle.
Nine years after the Wrexham Supporters Trust came to the rescue of its debt-ridden club, the arrival of new owners in the form of the Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney this week has catapulted the town in north Wales into the spotlight. But after 98.6% of votes cast by members of the trust supported their takeover, even Harris – who has served as one of five directors since 2011 – has been having to pinch himself.
“I’m quite down to earth so when I met them for the first time I wasn’t too starstruck,” he says. “But when I did find out it was people with such significant global reach, it did seem quite surreal. It’s been a wild few months.”
The story began this year when Harris was contacted by the Portsmouth chief executive, Mark Catlin. “He knows the people who’ve been representing Ryan and Rob and he asked me if we’d be interested in having a conversation with them,” Harris recalls.
“In the early stages, that was very much a conversation about somebody being interested. We were told that they were very high-profile but they wanted to get to know a little bit more about the club first and see if it’s a good fit. We went through that process to get to the non-disclosure agreement and then we were introduced to Ryan and Rob.”
Reynolds and McElhenney had enlisted the services of the New York-based sports investment specialists Inner Circle Sports LLC as they searched for the right club. Wrexham are in their 13th season in the National League having narrowly missed out on promotion after they finished second with a club record 98 points to a Jamie Vardy-inspired Fleetwood Town in 2012, and Harris insists the pair’s decision was no accident.
“Rob said he watched a lot of the things about the club and the town and he saw the types of people he recognised from his home town in Philadelphia,” he says. “That was really attractive to him.
“They’ve done a heck of a lot of research. Over the last few months, Rob has really got into the detail and I know he has watched the parade from 1978 when we were promoted to the second tier for the first time. He’s really serious about it. They could easily have bought a club several rungs higher but I think they are interested in the journey. It’s very encouraging.”
Harris adds: “Because of the calibre of representatives that they have used to scour Europe in an attempt to find the right club, I never thought this was just a gimmick. But if you have seen the video they released talking about our sponsors Ifor Williams, I think they are going to have some fun with it.
“We’ve only just had the vote and they’ve not even finished the sale and purchase agreement but they’ve already started having conversations with key stakeholders about returning sponsors and with the local authority, talking about what they can do for the community. That shows the type of people they are – they have real ambition for the club.”
News of their takeover has made global headlines, with Harris confirming that filming for a documentary which will follow their exploits has started, even it has yet to be confirmed where it will be broadcast. Harris, although excited at the prospect of seeing Wrexham’s story being told on the small screen, is adamant that Reynolds’ and McElhenney’s priority is ensuring success on the pitch.
“Some people have been a bit confused about the documentary – some people have suggested that it’s about the documentary rather than the football club. As I see it, the football club is the horse and the documentary is the cart. If you want to take your brand to a global level then what better way to do that? Here we are the third-oldest professional club in the world with the oldest international football stadium so there is a real story behind us.”
Harris adds: “Wrexham has a huge catchment area of around 900,000 – there’s a whole region that has nothing else and it’s an area that is football mad. Their vision is why can’t we go on this journey and why can’t we share this with an audience around the world? We’ve had the astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeting about us for a while and wearing a Wrexham kit and on Monday Russell Crowe was tweeting about how his grandfather came from the town. People are coming out of the woodwork everywhere.”
Reynolds and McElhenney plan to inject £2m of non-redeemable shares into the club, although the trust will retain the lease for the Racecourse Ground and collect rent from their Hollywood A-list owners. For now, though, Harris is urging supporters to give them time as he steps away from a loving commitment that has consumed him.
“I’ve given it the best years of my life,” he says. “There’s a small group of us who have been running the club from the start and thousands of volunteers that have made us successful. We will hand over a club that, even after the pandemic, has cash in the bank and has zero debt. But I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and be too positive. We need to manage expectations because Rome wasn’t built in a day and I do think they will try to build Rome at Wrexham. The biggest challenge they have ahead of them is getting out of the National League.”