Celebrations, due to the sad and untimely death of the manager of the national team at the weekend, were perhaps more muted at The Racecourse Ground this evening than they might otherwise have been. There should, however, be a pause this evening for Wrexham supporters to celebrate a life well lived as well as the opportunity for a rebirth of their club following the news this afternoon that the authorities have finally granted their approval for the take-over of the club by the Wrexham Supporters Trust. It has been a battle that has been long and hard-fought, but the final decision hands an opportunity to a club that has been a living, breathing example of the failure of the “benign dictator” model of ownership for a football club in recent years.
As regular readers of this site will be aware, it has been the scrupulous diligence of the supporters of Wrexham FC itself that have brought about this set of circumstances. Their skill at this was, perhaps, best proved in the debunking of the Stephanie Booth myth, which sought to portray her as the saviour of the club, whilst overlooking the fact that she was disqualified from acting as a director of the club until 2012. The news that she might not have been all that was claimed on her behalf sewed the seeds of a form of activism which ensured that any prospective new owners would in effect have to pass muster with the people that really matter: the supporters themselves. It felt at times as if the supporters of the club were almost pathologically unable to unite at a time when they absolutely needed to. As this year has worn on, however, it has become increasingly apparent that the WST bid would be the only one that had a serious chance of managing the club in anything like the medium to long term.
The route to ownership of the club hasn’t been a smooth one for the trust itself. The most coveted physical prize, that of The Racecourse Ground itself, has been lost to the local Glyndwr University, although they have not given any indication thus far of being anything other than accommodating landlords, whilst there remain valid question marks over the club’s ongoing financial liabilities which haven’t necessarily been answered in full just yet. We are living though tough economic times and raising commercial revenue streams may prove to be considerably more difficult than it would have been in recent years, but the WST has an opportunity to build bridges that may have been burnt by previous owners and to bring the club together as one as a genuine asset for its community. Nothing is guaranteed, but the ownership model adopted by the WST has been proven to work elsewhere, and the opportunity for a clean slate should not be understated.
As a mutual organisation, however, the future of the club will come to be dependent upon a different world-view to that which has permeated through this club – as it has at so many others – in recent years. There can be no more hope or anticipation of something for nothing, of their version of a fabled white knight on a charger sweeping into The Racecourse Ground, carrying with him or her promises of a trip to the promised land, with all expenses paid. Wrexham FC will have to work hard for every penny it earns, and will have to move towards a financial model which no longer leaks money from every available orifice. There are and can be no further excuses. With the opportunity to control your own destiny comes the responsibility for that degree of control. The good news is that the WST has behaved with the utmost diligence over the last fee months. It has kept a dignified quiet when the temptation to respond to varying public statements and press reports with a blunderbuss of anger and counter-accusation might have proved close to irresistible. In short, the Trust has demonstrated that it can be trusted.
The hard work, however, starts now. The WST and the supporters have, by and large, done themselves proud in their actions over this particular matter, but the club faces a new set of challenges. These extend beyond the WST board, and beyond even the club’s currently active support itself. The biggest challenge for the club now is to build bridges, with local businesses and with the wider community of the town of Wrexham itself. This is a town that supported League football for eighty-seven years and it can do again, but it is down to everybody to turn out an support it, get involved in fund-raising schemes and build it back to a platform from which it is not throwing away more money that it can afford into a black hole. The proof of how much Wrexham FC is wanted will become apparent over the coming weeks and months. For tonight, however, all we can do is say offer our congratulations to all of those that have worked so hard to achieve this. For Wrexham FC, the future begins now.
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