If you mention the word Wrexham to a group of people in the United Kingdom, a large proportion of those people will immediately think of the town’s football club. If you were as far North as Newcastle, they would be reminded of Arfon Griffith’s 1978 FA Cup side that beat Blyth Spartans. If you were as far South as London, or indeed in any other City across the country, their minds might turn to Mickey Thomas’s goal that beat Arsenal in 1992.
The Portugese would have no idea that Wrexham existed if it were not for the football team. But Wrexham’s victory against Porto in 1985 put the Welsh town on the map. Go to Anderlecht in Belgium, Djurgardens in Sweden, Zurich, Split, and if they have heard of Wrexham at all, it will be because they know the football team. To many, many people across the UK and Europe, Wrexham is its football club.
Will these people have heard of Erddig Manor House? Probably not. Chirk Castle? I doubt it. Yet both of those buildings are preserved and protected by the National Trust. Cadw, another historical preservation society currently has no buildings under its wing in the Wrexham area. It should be looking at The Racecourse. There should be legislation protecting Wrexham Football Club, and its historically significant stadium.
Wrexham is the cradle of Welsh football. The FAW was formed at the Wynnstay Hotel in the town in 1876, and its offices remained in Wrexham until the 1980s. The Racecourse is the oldest international football stadium in the World that is still in use. Think about that. This is the World’s greatest sport. It is played and enjoyed by billions of people world-wide, and this is the oldest surviving venue for the international game that spawned the World Cup, the World’s biggest sporting event. Here, in Wrexham. If The Racecourse was a baseball stadium in America, it would be a living shrine.
After the club was hijacked by Mark Guterman and Alex Hamilton at the start of this century the Wrexham fans became organised and in 2004 they formed the Wrexham Supporters Trust. Property developer Hamilton had bought the club from his pal Guterman, but then transferred The Racecourse ownership away from Wrexham FC, and into the hands of one of his own companies. On 20 September, 2004, Hamilton gave Wrexham FC notice to quit the stadium they had occupied since 1872. The club’s administrators mounted a legal battle which asserted that Hamilton’s ground transfer was illegal. They won, and The Racecourse was saved.
The local community was not complacent and urged the council to include The Racecourse in its Local Development Plan. Over ten thousand people signed a petition to say that it should be protected as a local resource for use by sporting organisations. The North Wales Economic Forum, and the Welsh Assembly Government identified it as the regional venue for major events in north Wales. The fans celebrated the victory over Hamilton. The ground’s future was apparently safe.
But Wrexham FC and The Racecourse are under attack again. Worryingly in 2006, the ownership of Wrexham FC was transferred to a new Company called Wrexham Village. Supporters were naturally suspicious, but the club denied any sinister intent. Wrexham Village would only raise money for the club. It developed some of The Racecourse’s Land, and also bought Crusaders Rugby League Club.
So it came as a shock to read this interview with club Chairman Ian Roberts. The relevant bits about his intention to transfer and lease the ground are mysteriously edited out of the online version, so here is a scan of the article.
Buried in the print, Wrexham FC Chair Ian Roberts says that he will transfer ownership of The Racecourse away from the club and into another company. It all sounds familiar doesn’t it? And then he wants to lease the ground back to both the football and rugby league clubs at £3,000 per week. Each.
Wrexham FC has had enough of this. Wales’ most historic stadium should not be used to raise money from its own club. Wrexham FC cannot afford these new costs and may eventually be evicted from its own ground. All of Wales should join the fight against the rape of Wrexham Football Club and help preserve something that is part of our national heritage.
For more detailed information on the struggle see this extensive analysis by Two Hundred Per Cent