Ever since Hollywood heavyweights Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds announced their intentions to purchase Wrexham AFC in 2020, interest in the club has grown rapidly. This year’s ‘Welcome to Wrexham’, a series documenting the club takeover on streaming service Disney Plus, attracted an entirely new fanbase of international football supporters. But what has this meteoric sporting success meant for Wrexham, its community and its university?
The relationship between Wrexham Glyndŵr University and Wrexham FC
Delivering education since 1887, Wrexham Glyndŵr University is no stranger to Wrexham FC; many might know that the university, having owned the Racecourse (Wrexham FC’s stadium) since 2011, recently sold the grounds back to the club.
As Head of International at Wrexham Glyndŵr University, Katy Davenport is responsible for the university’s international recruitment. Born and raised in the US, Katy’s lived in the Wrexham area for almost a decade and can speak first-hand about the sense of community generated by both the university and football club.
Katy said: “We have a strong relationship with Wrexham FC, which our current and future students will benefit from. We’ve collaborated on numerous projects over the years, resulting in industry experiences, funding opportunities and joint projects. In a sense, the university’s collaboration with the club is creating a type of “living laboratory” or complex of experiential learning opportunities for students in fields such as business, computing and sports. Students on these programmes, and many more, benefit from having such a dynamic and welcoming organisation as our neighbour and collaborator.”
Together Wrexham Glyndŵr University and Wrexham FC (along with Wrexham County Borough Council and Welsh Government) are working towards the realisation of the Wrexham Gateway Project. This large-scale civic and economic plan aims to develop a large area near the university, football club and train station.
Katy added: “The project will have a tremendous positive impact on the physical landscape of the region and will create a hub to support investment in business, education, housing, transport and sporting infrastructure. This project demonstrates our joint commitment to investing in our community, which we hope will include international students considering Wrexham Glyndŵr as their study destination.”
Putting Wrexham on the map for international students
There’s certainly a buzz around Wrexham thanks to the football club, which opens the door to educating more people outside of the UK about the incredible educational opportunities available at Wrexham Glyndŵr University. The university has been steadily raising its international profile and reputation in recent years through overseas partnerships, research and recruitment, and visits to the States in particular have revealed how many people know of and are excited to talk about the city, the football club, and the sense of community in Wrexham.
Dr Shafiul Monir, a Senior Lecturer in Aeronautical & Mechanical and programme lead for the MSc in Engineering provisions, studied at Wrexham Glyndŵr University in 2002 and is now involved in international student recruitment himself. He’s seen an increased awareness of Wrexham when visiting partner institutions, thanks to the popularity of the club, and has recognised the wide breadth of support for Wrexham as a city both locally and further afield.
Shafiul said: "I always overhear students talking about the club and see them sharing things on social media whenever there’s a game on - especially on TikTok. Our students feel part of the journey and are aware of the positive changes that are happening within the university, the football club and Wrexham in general. It’s somehow brought everyone together, international students included. One of my German students even told me how he's been to many football games in Germany and other European countries but has never been made to feel so welcome and like a part of the team, which is wonderful to hear.”
Wrexham’s growth and success as a city
Rob McElhenny and Ryan Reynold’s involvement in Wrexham FC has had an undeniable impact on the university and the city. Like the club, Wrexham Glyndŵr University has a long history of contributing to the growth, development and sense of belonging within the local and regional community. The spotlight on Wrexham FC has highlighted not only where the club has come from, but its ambitious plans for elevating the community, which is a vision the university shares.
In September 2022, Wrexham gained official city status and became the seventh city in Wales, joining Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, Bangor, St Davids and St Asaph. This year also saw Wrexham narrowly miss out on becoming the UK City of Culture 2025, after reaching the final four.
And Wrexham Glyndŵr University’s joint commitment to make a positive difference in the community was a fundamental component of the City of Culture bid, highlighting the university’s vision for a culture-led regeneration of the city. There were many factors to Wrexham’s selection as finalists, but the attention generated by the football club certainly heightened awareness and brought positive publicity to both the City of Culture Bid and consideration for city status.
Dr Martyn Jones, a Senior Lecturer at Wrexham Glyndŵr University, was born and raised in Wrexham and is a lifelong fan of the club and season ticket holder. He’s supported Wrexham FC through its many highs and many lows, and he’s found it mind-blowing to see the incredible support and turnout there is for each home game. But he’s also passionate about his hometown, and firmly believes that Wrexham’s earned its accolades on its own merit.
Martyn said: “The city and its community has had a resurgence since the football club takeover, with local businesses in particular feeling the benefits of increased and consistent trade - especially the pubs and hotels. There is a renewed pride in the area and while the rise of the football club has certainly helped, the town was already deserving of city status; it’s the largest city in North Wales and is a hub of manufacturing and engineering for the UK. Large employers, such as Moneypenny, also contributed to the city status, as well as the opening of Ty Pawb - an arts and community hub. There is a genuine feeling that the city is continuously improving and becoming more vibrant, with art, culture, history and football leading the way.”
Want to learn more about Wrexham as a study destination? Read our university spotlight on Wrexham Glyndŵr here.