Event Television with a Lasting Legacy

News that Welcome to Wrexham has been extended to a new season has been warmly received by fans of the hit documentary. The series, showing on Disney+ in the UK, follows the fortunes of Wrexham AFC as the Welsh football club and the Wrexham locals come to grips with new owners, Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. The show has won multiple awards, and it retains very high scores on review aggregator sites. It’s a feel-good documentary with a dash of romance and realism. But perhaps more importantly, Welcome to Wrexham will leave a legacy long after the cameras leave the Welsh town.

If you aren’t familiar with the background, the documentary began shooting in 2020. Wrexham AFC is one of the UK’s historic football clubs – it’s one of the oldest clubs in the world – albeit not a highly successful one. The club struggled a lot in the 21st century, going into administration in the early 2000s and eventually being mired in the ‘non-league’ National League from 2008 to 2023. Reynolds and McElhenney bought the club in November 2020. The documentary has since followed the new owners’ time at the club, focusing on their ambitions to transform the club into a major force once more.

Wrexham growing in stature as a footballing force

Reynolds and McElhenney have certainly poured money into the club, although Wrexham are still very far away from the likes of Manchester City, considered the richest club in the world. Wrexham operate one of the largest budgets in the lower leagues, and they have attracted players who would not usually play in the lower divisions. But the key to the series’ heart is not just the club and its success, but the impact it has on the fans and wider community.

The two actors were reportedly influenced by another football documentary, Sunderland Till I Die. While the documentaries differ in tone and messaging, there are a lot of similarities. And the most significant one is the impact of football on communities. Sunderland and Wrexham are both post-industrial towns. They are places whose identities have become more difficult to define. Gone are the heavy industries like coal and steel, and that makes it difficult to categorise. The documentaries show how that 21st-century identity can be found in football.

Hollywood owners seem to understand their responsibility

Cynics will, of course, look at the involvement of Hollywood celebrities in a (with all due respect) unfashionable part of North Wales as a publicity stunt. Yet for their part, Reynolds and McElhenney seem to be committed to the cause. What they have understood – and they may have learned this from the Sunderland series – is that they have been given something precious. It comes through in the series that they understand their responsibilities to Wrexham, both the club and the town.

The third season of Welcome to Wrexham will air in 2024 on FX and Disney+. It will follow the club across its season in EFL League 2. The stakes are different, of course. In fact, they are no longer considered as underdogs. It remains to be seen whether the charm of the documentary will hold, given the massive media attention given to the club. But both the documentary and Wrexham’s rise from the ashes feel like a fairytale story. It’s worth watching, even if you don’t have much truck with football.

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