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Wrexham Executive Co-signs Open Letter Pleading for Fans in Welsh Stadiums

calendario 14.12.2020
by: Zach
  • England
  • Vanarama National
Wrexham Executive Co-signs Open Letter Pleading for Fans in Welsh Stadiums

Wrexham Executive Director Mark Williams ranked among the 15 elite Welsh sporting officials to sign an open letter to the First Minister of Wales’ devolved government in December 2020. The letter follows the end of England’s second coronavirus lockdown and the gradual reintroduction of fans to stadiums in the top six tiers of English football.

Several Welsh football teams compete in the English football hierarchy, including Cardiff City, whose chief Steve Borley penned and posted the letter on City’s website. While Spurs fans enjoyed a triumphant return to the Tottenham stadium for the North London Derby after the lockdown, Cardiff’s South Wales derby with Swansea City played out behind closed doors. Welsh clubs up and down the football pyramid look enviously across the border as things stand, including Newport County, currently topping League 2 despite the home fan discrepancy, and crucially, Wrexham AFC.

Wrexham made headlines earlier in 2020 after their bid money takeover by the Hollywood A-listers Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. Boosted by the news, and the fresh host of global acclaim, Wrexham enjoyed a five-game unbeaten streak during England’s second lockdown in November. Since December arrived and fans returned to English grounds, Wrexham suffered two defeats on the trot. 

Their away day with league leaders Torquay was always going to be tough. Torquay have only suffered one defeat all season and held a comfortable goal difference in the high teens before their match with Wrexham, the worldwide reds. However, it can’t have helped that that day coincided with Torquay fans returning to Plainmoor. After playing an eerily quiet closed-door season, the Wrexham squad arrived in Devon to a roaring audience of nearly 1,000 fans. After conceding in the first five minutes, they went on to lose the game 3-1.

Many Welsh fans would call this an unfair, or at least unequal consequence of coronavirus restrictions on sport. Not only that, but the current measure create a direct obstacle to the ambitions of the reds’ new high-profile owners. Welsh football clubs have been stung by distant American investors before (see Swansea City’s fall from the Premier League); Reynolds and McElhenney promised to be different. 

The dynamic duo, under their company title RR McReynolds LLC, pledged to be hands-on owners. They founded their bid on visiting the ground, having a pint with fans, and watching games from the Racecourse. As things stand, they won’t be able to have a pint with fans, with or without a substantial meal, unless they smuggle one into the Racecourse gift shop. 

It stands to reason that Wrexham would sign the open letter to the Welsh government, pleading for parity across the border. Steve Borley’s letter bases its argument on independent scientific inquiries from a body called the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, following a meeting with Welsh sporting officials. The authority suggested a measure titled SG02, which, depending on stadium size and facilities available, allows for 25-35% capacity of fans in sporting stadiums. According to the letter, the Welsh Assembly is currently working on SG02W, an amendment to make this order even tighter, permitting only 10% of fans in each ground.

It’s easy to understand Cardiff City and Wrexham AFC’s frustrations, along with the other 13 signees on the open letter. With 10% of fans only, clubs would barely break even on ticket sales with stewarding fees and infrastructure costs, adding extra strain to an already trying time. However, Drakeford’s position in the Welsh government prioritises health and wellbeing of Welsh lives. The First Minister states that he believes with certainty that the current measures “will save lives,” as Welsh infection rates display a worrying spike towards the end of 2020.

Hopefully, for Wrexham fans in Wales and abroad, things will be different next year. The cautious introduction of the vaccine, and English fans setting a precedent in Britain, the Reds may well be able to see the home leg of their Torquay fixture with their own eyes in April. Perhaps they can discuss it over a pint with their new North American overlords. Despite the recent setbacks, ambitions still run high in North Wales, and there’s still time for the stars to align. 


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