MODERN day life has spawned some bizarre new medical conditions; Snapchat Dysmorphia Syndrome, Texting Finger, Facebook Depression and Laptop Thigh Disorder are all ailments which are recognised by doctors.

Could Fan Ownership Fatigue be set to join them?

More and more Scottish football clubs have moved away from the traditional ownership model - being privately run by a wealthy benefactor who invests their own money – for a multitude of different reasons in recent years.

There are now no fewer than three teams, Hearts, Motherwell and St Mirren, in the cinch Premiership who are firmly in the hands of their supporters. Many others in the lower leagues, including Annan Athletic, Clyde, Morton, Partick Thistle and Stirling Albion, operate in the same manner.

READ MOREHow Club 1872 can become key Ibrox players again after failed buyout

But is being masters of your own destiny really all it is cracked up to be? Does it actually limit the heights that you can scale on the field of play? Is there something still to be said for being bankrolled by an individual, a consortium or an organisation?

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Most fans of Wrexham, who made headline news around the globe back in 2021 when they were bought over lock, stock and two smoking barrels by Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, would argue that there very much is.

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The Welsh club became fan-owned back in 2011 after coming perilously close to going out of business during the calamitous and acrimonious reign of Alex Hamilton.

His controversial plans to sell the historic Racecourse Ground to retail giants B&Q and build a new stadium on an another site unravelled in spectacular fashion. He was found guilty of asset-stripping by a judge in court and banned from being a company director for seven years. 

Dragons diehards raised £100,000 in the space of seven hours to prevent the Football Conference from throwing them out of the Blue Square Premier League. The Wrexham Supporters Trust (WST) then had an offer to buy the club accepted.

In the years which followed, their members, slowly but surely, sorted out the mess which they had inherited and order was restored. 

“I wouldn’t say there was a massive appetite for community ownership,” said Nathan Salt, an ardent Wrexham supporter, sports writer and the co-host of the RobRyanRed podcast. “It was kind of thrust upon us. We were being run into oblivion and were in danger of ceasing to exist. It was borne out of necessity.

“Spencer Harris and Rob Parry, high level business people in the town, became really involved in the WST and worked for free. If we had been privately run and they had been employed, they would have cost six figure salaries.

“They walked in and were quite scared by what they saw in the books and made significant cuts. They did a lot of work for free and got us back in the black.”

Having come within hours of going out of existence after 146 years due to the nefarious and self-serving actions of an unscrupulous owner, you would have expected Wrexham supporters to have been eternally grateful to have control and stability and completely opposed to a takeover by an anonymous overseas party.

But when Inner Circle Sports, the New York-based consultancy firm which had aided Fenway Sports Group in their £300m purchase of Liverpool back in 2010, informed the National League outfit they were representing interested buyers in 2020, the WST members voted overwhelmingly in favour of selling.

READ MOREHow fan-owned Hearts are closing the gap on Celtic and Rangers

So what happened? “I would say fan ownership fatigue had kicked in,” said Salt. “We had seen Salford get promoted with the Class of ’92 money. We had seen Crawley Town, Bristol Rovers, Cheltenham Town go up. Even the people who were running the club would accept that fatigue had kicked in.

“Yes, we had had owners before who weren’t great. Yes, people had been scarred. Yes, there were still a small number of people who were scared of us being privately run. But people also felt that there was a ceiling financially with fan ownership.

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“We used to have a scheme called Build the Budget. It would entail fans chucking a few pounds into a bucket on match day. That would effectively be our transfer budget for the season.

“An element of toxicity had hit the fan base. It had become incredibly divisive – either you were pro-trust and pro-fan ownership or you were quite vocally anti-trust and anti-fan ownership. It wasn’t good for the club. It was affecting the team. Even the people on the trust board felt the time was right to sell it.

“There were two special general meetings. The first vote was held when fans didn’t know the identity of the prospective owners and 97 per cent backed it. I think that proves that fatigue of fan ownership had kicked in.

“We had spent 13 years in the National League and were 19th in the table. We weren’t making progress. We hadn’t been in the play-off final since losing to Newport in 2013. People thought: ‘Now is the time to try again’.”

When it subsequently transpired that Reynolds, star of the Deadpool, Green Lantern and X Men films, and McElhenny, who appears in the television comedy series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, were behind the bid, support increased further and the sale went through.

They have not had cause to regret their decision. Quite the opposite, in fact, has been true.

READ MOREFergus McCann's adviser fears Celtic are vulnerable to Qatari takeover

“Lots of bids had been knocked back previously,” said Salt. “Wrexham has huge appeal. It is the only club in north Wales, there is a large catchment area. The reason they were knocked back was because of fears of a repeat Alex Hamilton situation.

“But Inner Circle Sports were the group who were working with Rob and Ryan. They had helped Fenway Sports Group to buy Liverpool. So immediately that signalled that this was all above board and very proper.

“There were a lot of guarantees around the sale as well – you can’t change the colour of the kit, you can’t change the badge, you can’t leave the Racecourse Ground, you must respect the Gresford Colliery Disaster.

“Rob and Ryan, who held a Zoom call with all of the trust members and pitched their bid themselves, included a lot of that in their mission statement. They were also told: ‘If you do ever leave, please don’t sell us to B&Q’. The trust gave the club away for a peppercorn essentially. They sold it for £1. Rob and Ryan immediately put £2m in.”

The Herald:

He added: “It has been amazing. They have breathed new life into the place. I have never known it so positive in all my time supporting Wrexham. There was a big rift before. Not now. It is down to Rob and Ryan.

“They have tried to do things the right way. We are in an era when many owners are derided and lambasted for how they run football clubs. But we have struck gold with two people who, while they want to win, see it as a philanthropic venture.

“If you are a cynic, you would say it is great PR for them. But they still strike the right notes. They have got a lot to lose by screwing up a football club. As I say, it has been an amazing two years.

“It is remarkable how many people are interested in Wrexham. I was looking at the FlashScore app, where people get live updates on goals, the other day. Wrexham are the fourth most saved team on that. There is Manchester United, PSG, Real Madrid, Wrexham and then Barcelona. It is bizarre, absolutely ridiculous.

“A friend of mine at work used to laugh when I would talk about going to see Wrexham against Bromley or whatever. Now we are the hottest ticket in town. Every home game is a 10,000 sell-out. We have over 7,000 season ticket holders. We have 1.5 million followers on social media. We have sold 24,000 shirts. That is not bad going for a fifth tier team.”

READ MORESt Mirren bouncing back from £1.6m losses by putting own fans first

It is no coincidence that Wrexham, who were the subject of the award-winning FX documentary Welcome to Wrexham, are now in top spot in the National League and pushing for their first promotion in 20 years.

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“When you collect money in buckets to pay players there is only so much talent you can get,” said Salt. “On the pitch, it has been totally transformed. There is a real belief we can leap two divisions with the squad we have now.

“Before the takeover, everyone was on one year contracts. There was a high turnover of players every year. Now we are able to go out and get League One players. We have gone from having a wage bill of under £1m to £2.3m. Paul Mullin was the top scorer in the league last season. A few years ago our centre half was our top scorer with six goals.”

That Wrexham posted losses of £2.9m in the financial year ending June 30, 2022, made headlines last week. But their annual accounts showed that their turnover had soared by 404 per cent to £6m – a record for non-league football.

Kieran Maguire, a football finance lecturer at the University of Liverpool and the host of the Price of Football podcast is unconcerned by the figures. “They are fine as long as the owners continue to fund the club,” he said.

There are still some Wrexham fans who yearn for the days when they were at the helm. But they are in a tiny minority. Most of their fellow supporters have very much been infected by Rob and Ryan mania. 

The remarkable tale underlines that fan ownership is not necessarily nirvana and private ownership is not always a living hell.  

“I spoke to one of the 33 people who abstained on the second vote recently and he told me he would go back to fan ownership in a heartbeat because he preferred it ideologically,” said Salt.  “There are a few who still feel like that. But 99.9 per cent would say it has been like a EuroMillions win. And hopefully there is better to come.”

You can listen to sports writers Rich Fay and Nathan Salt on the RobRyanRed podcast at