The world of English non-League football is associated with loyal fans and dedication to the cause. Wind, rain and shine, the fans and often volunteer workers at clubs often dedicate their lives to the club they love.
Some clubs are run on a shoestring budget due to a lack of finances. However, some clubs have attracted the interest of rich and often glamorous suitors with big ambitions to turn them into powerhouses of the game or just re-live former glories. Here are some examples of when wealthy owners have taken over non-League clubs.
When we talk about glamourous owners in non-League, one of the first clubs that springs to mind is Wrexham A.F.C of the National League. In November 2020, Hollywood A-lister Ryan Reynolds teamed up with US TV producer and actor Rob McElhenney to look into buying the Welsh club. On February 9th 2021, the pair completed the purchase of the Red Dragons for a reported price of £ 2 million.
Many thought it was a publicity stunt. Despite a reported documentary chronicling the takeover in the works, the famous pair seem to have good intentions for the club and haven’t bought the Welsh outfit as some novelty.
McElhenney has stated that Wrexham reminds him of the area of Philadelphia that he grew up in, and that was part of the reason for choosing to buy the club. The club’s rich history and passionate support have also been cited as one of the main reasons for the pair investing in the Welsh club.
Reynolds has stated that his hope is to see Wrexham play in the Premier League one day. A sign that things are changing at the club is that the team’s shirt sponsor is now the massive media platform TikTok.
With the US pair at the helm, it seems that the sky could be the limit for Wrexham. The club will hope that the pair’s arrival as owners will end their long stay in non-League football.
Ebbsfleet United F.C.
Wrexham is, of course, not the first and won’t be the last non-League club to attract wealthy foreign investors. In 2013, Ebbsfleet United F.C. saw a consortium of businessmen from Kuwait invest in their club.
The fans were hopeful that the club’s new owners could bring success. The club’s former owners were a consortium called MyFootballClub. The consortium ran an experiment of sorts at the Kent club, with shareholders, fans and even players voting on club matters.
However, the experiment ended with the arrival of new owners from the Persian Gulf. Despite bringing in new investment and hope, Ebbsfleet proved that money doesn’t always bring success. There have been more lows than highs since the Kuwaiti owners arrived at the club, as in 2021, United suffered relegation from the National League. This blow doesn’t seem to have affected the club’s owner’s plans for the future.
The appointment of highly regarded German head coach Dennis Kutrieb in June 2020 showed their ambitions, even if the club did suffer relegation in 2021. It seems that they will continue to back the club, and one day their investment could well pay off.
Dagenham and Redbridge
There is a history of former top-flight footballers, particularly from Manchester United investing in non-League football clubs. A consortium of former Red Devils, including the Neville brothers Phil and Gary, plus David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, invested in Salford City. The new owners took the Greater Manchester outfit to promotion to the Football League in 2019.
The class of 92’ are not the only former-United player interested in non-League matters. Former Red Devils and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard was part of a US consortium that invested their money in Dagenham and Redbridge in 2018. The consortium also includes Peter Freund, who has vast experience owning US sports teams, including the New York Yankees.
Like his counterparts at Wrexham, the authenticity and the competitive spirit of non-League football attracted Howard to invest in Dagenham and Redbridge. The takeover gave fans hope that the club move in the right direction, as the club has endured many highs and lows over the last decade.
Owners from the other side of the Atlantic haven’t always had a great track record when it comes to English football club ownership. However, the club probably couldn’t be in safer hands with Howard’s knowledge of English football from his playing career as a goalkeeper, first at Manchester United and then at Everton.