The Wrexham Effect

1st March 2024

Andy Williams

Co-founder, the wordy 'other half' | Intrigued by good content, and what it achieves | Bit of a nerd, quite creative, loves to write | Father, cyclist, activist | [ he/him ]

Rows of empty seating in a football stadium, calling to mind football, the importance of fans, and Wrexham AFC

What gives a story its wings? What makes it fly from mind to mind?  Take the story of Wales. I’m writing this on 1st of March – St Davids Day. Dewi Sant is the patron saint of Wales, so this challenge is well timed.

Why should you care

I like being Welsh. I think of Welshness as shared myths and memories, and about belonging to something. It’s not a matter of bloodlines, or birthplace, or language. I grew up with plenty of Welsh Singhs, Guptas, Carpaninis, Ferraris, Hoffmans and Gunters. Same accent as me. Same leek, or daffodil, pinned to their jumpers on March 1st. 

So what is it that Welsh people believe makes them, among other things, Welsh? And – this is the killer question – why should you care? 

Turns out, you shouldn’t ask me – we’d be here for a year. I might start back in the 6th Century, when Dewi was alive: the forging of a nation and language. I can see your eyes glazing already. Or I might try a bit of a curveball: when was the Norman Conquest? Of England – 1066. Of Wales – 1282.  Now you’re yawning. I don’t blame you. This is my passion, not yours. 

I’m so inside it, so wrapped up, so convinced it’s interesting and so anxious to persuade, I’ve failed almost before I’ve started.  

Understanding the Wrexham Effect

When Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney take a lesson in the Welsh language – Cymraeg –  on Welcome to Wrexham maybe now you’re at least vaguely intrigued?

Chances are, you’ve seen or at least know of the project. Two Hollywood A-listers put their money and faces on the line to turn round the fortunes of Wrexham AFC. Ownership of the club is held by a supporters’ trust fund. Yes, they have money to invest, and profile to burn. But all that investment needs a return. The magic ingredient here is storytelling, and bringing those stories to a wider audience. 

It begins with persuading the supporters to allow them to purchase the struggling club, and to film a docudrama. A show as much about community and family as it is about sport. A community that’s a brew-up, an infusion, of the beliefs, shared memories, lived experiences, of an entire nation. Wales. 

From the off, it’s enthralling. I don’t have to like football ( …just as well ). It’s the people and their passion that grabs me. The community’s self-belief is entangled with that of the club. Suffering is their shared experience. The relationship between the team and its supporters is very personal. And fragile. And essential. Somehow, the club has to grow, change, succeed, without breaking those things that make it what it is. 

One storyline from many | The new management’s first big signing, Paul Mullin, is a shy and quiet figure off the pitch, and a goal-scoring phenomenon on it. The fans’ adulation quickly achieves fever pitch. We learn that it doesn’t matter to Mullin, except as a platform to raise awareness of autism. He would trade everything for a way to help his son overcome the condition. When he meets Millie, a Wrexham superfan who also has autism, and understands the club’s commitment to supporting her and other disabled people, it’s clear he’s found another cause to play for.


And this is when the penny starts to drop for me. To tell the story of Wales, I shouldn’t start with centuries and saints. That’s just data. I shouldn’t start with me. That’s pure selfishness. I need to start with you. 

And right up front, I must give you a focus, something you don’t just believe, but could believe in. A sports team. An individual’s narrative. Whatever. A mirror where you see some of your hopes, concerns, backstory, reflected. If I can do that, your curiosity and the stirrings of belief gives us both our start. 

"Gwnewch y pethau bychain"

Dewi Sant

"Do the little things"

St David

There’s more I might share now, on that common ground we’ve established. You’ll accept some of it, you’ll leave some of it. I trust you to take what you need, and you trust me to be transparent with you.

Trust means that when I share not just how something is, but why it is, you might be prepared to invest a little more curiosity and belief. Why is medicine for the soul, but sometimes a big pill to swallow. Best come to it gently.

If we get this far, we’re giving time and room to something bigger than both of us. As much as we need, at any rate. We’re connected at many levels. 


I’ve known that Celebrity Learns Cymraeg skit go quite differently. A sort of slapstick, with language as the custard pie: ‘What’s the Welsh for ambulance…?’ (What’s the English for cafe?). 

But this one doesn’t. Behind the charm and self-deprecation of two gifted storytellers there’s an openness and willingness: to learn, to understand, and to pay their respects. 

It feels like they started by running with the story, and now that story is running through them. That’s what stories do, when they have wings. They inhabit you. They move your horizons. 

In big ways, and small ways. One step at a time.

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