Wrexham AFC was founded in 1864, but the club and its surrounding community quickly gained prominence in the football scene over the next few decades. Wrexham was the site for a long list of footballing firsts in that time period, and its professional club’s 150+ year history has entire books written about it.
Decades after Wrexham AFC’s inception and decades more past its peak popularity, the club ended up on the brink of collapse in 2011. Everyone knows its story didn’t end there, but few know how it happened.
But, to explain its fall, which resulted in fans raising thousands of pounds to save the club from being turned into a supermarket, its rise must come first. For clarity’s sake and to not bore non-sports fans, the club history will focus on a few highlights from each era.
Photo Courtesy Wrexham AFC
Finding A Footing 1864–1882
The club’s early years were marked with plenty of firsts. Wrexham AFC won the first of many Welsh Football Association Cups in 1872. The Welsh Cup is Wales’ most prestigious domestic cup, representing a knock-out style tournament between the country’s best clubs.
During this period, the club briefly changed home venues and its name to “Wrexham Athletic Football Club.” It would soon return to The Racecourse Ground and change its name back, but that’s why it eventually adopted its current name, “Wrexham AFC.”
The town of Wrexham was also keeping pace with the club’s “firsts.” It became the birthplace of The Football Association of Wales in 1876, the third oldest organization of its kind in the world.
The group was founded to host an international game between Scotland and Wales at Wrexham’s stadium, The Racecourse. That match was played a year after the association was founded but did result in a Welsh loss.
Photo Courtesy Wikimedia
The Good Times 1883–2003
In 1883, Wrexham AFC entered the English Football Association Cup, also called the FA Cup. The competition is the English version of the Welsh Cup, hosting clubs ranging from Premier League champions to semi-professional teams.
In the following decades, the club joined, left, and rejoined several leagues. Through all that chaos, it won various leagues and a multitude of Welsh Cups.
That era of football was much less standardized and uniform than today, so it was much more common for teams to switch leagues somewhat regularly.
Now, the club was not a truly dominant footballing team like some of the English giants, but it was a top Welsh team and held its own, sometimes even winning, against those top clubs. Wrexham continued its Welsh Cup dominance between periods of stoppage due to the World Wars.
Interestingly, the club’s 5–0 loss to Manchester United in the 1957 FA Cup actually helped it finance new stadium capacity upgrades. The club eventually found some stability in league play, bouncing between the Third and Fourth Divisions of the English FA Pyramid during the 60s and 70s.
Photo Courtesy Wikimedia
In 1984, the club had spent the preceding years achieving its deepest run in the FA Cup, beating top clubs in tournaments and bouncing between the fourth and second divisions in league play. Its peak might have been defeating Arsenal Football Club 2–1 in the 1992 FA Cup, a shocking upset in football history.
Unfortunately, the club had slowly descended into financial trouble and poor domestic performances. Things went from bad to worse when an ownership change took place in 2002.
Next Up: The club’s financial collapse.