Wrexham owner Ryan Reynolds offered advice to NFL icon after Burnley investment

Reynolds and McElhenney join Wrexham players on bus parade

The latest American investor in British football has already been warned by Ryan Reynolds to respect the game’s unique tribalism or risk losing the fan base before plans have even got underway. Former NFL star JJ Watt has bought a minority investment in newly-crowned Championship title-winners Burnley, alongside his wife Kealia, herself a former USA football international.

The Clarets will be back in the Premier League next term after finishing the season as second-tier champions with 101 points – 10 clear of their nearest rivals Sheffield United.

The 34-year-old retired Arizona Cardinals defensive end has already been on a pub crawl in the Lancashire town to familiarise himself with the locals and revealed that he has spoken to Wrexham owner Reynolds to get his view on what it takes to make a success of investing in a British football team.

Speaking to The Athletic, Watt said: “The number one thing Ryan said was recognising the tribalism in football. It’s different from American sports. It is a tribal loyalty that is rarely found in other sports or supporter bases. He told me I had to respect and honour that history and tradition and do right by that group otherwise you will lose them before you start.

“It’s been fun to watch him and Rob [McElhenney] do it so well, and that’s what we’re trying to do here. I’m trying to get so deep into the community so they know I understand this club. It has been here long before I was here and will be long after I’m gone; all I’m trying to do is respect and elevate what you have.”

Hollywood star Reynolds bought non-league outfit Wrexham alongside fellow actor Rob McElhenney in November 2020. The working class town had been forced to endure fifth-tier football for 15 years but will finally return to the Football League next season after winning the National League with a record 111 points.

Although Watt is investing in a club three tiers above that of Reynolds and McElhenney, comparisons between the two towns, which have both fallen on tough economic times, can easily be drawn.

Interest in Wrexham has sky-rocketed since the arrival of their Hollywood owners, with sell-out crowds and enormous growth in social media following on the club’s accounts. Watt will be hoping to make a similar impact at Burnley, but as the club returns to the Premier League, there will be no shortage of US businessmen to bump into. Seven of the top flight’s existing member clubs are majority-owned by US companies or individuals.

Watt appears determined to integrate himself with the fabric of the Clarets, much like Reynolds and McElenney have done at Wrexham.

He told BBC Breakfast: “I’ve learned that the history, tradition and supporters, it’s all about respecting and honouring that. “You never want to come in and try and do something that’s not true to who the club is and what we’re trying to do is show people what real Burnley is about. Just getting to know the supporters, I want to earn their trust by showing them how much we care and how passionate we are.”

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