When Bob Walker watched “Welcome to Wrexham,” he saw more than just an entertaining documentary about two American actors who buy a professional soccer team in Wales struggling to compete in the English Football League.
He saw a learning opportunity in entrepreneurialism and an interesting international travel experience for Tippie College of Business students.
The Netflix documentary chronicles the two first years of the Wrexham Dragons football team after its purchase by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney in 2020. The team, a perennial loser playing in the league’s lowest professional level, is nevertheless central to the identity of Wrexham, a down-on-its-heels Welsh industrial town. The documentary shows how Reynolds and McElhenney worked to improve the team so it could be promoted to a higher level while staying true to the town’s blue-collar roots.
But Walker, associate professor of instruction for management and entrepreneurship, and Kristy Walker, lecturer of business analytics, saw not only an entertaining documentary that kept them riveted and waiting for the next episode. They saw a case study for their students, showing the basics of building a business: designing a workable business model and executing it, securing sponsors, lining up financing, working with local government, and other challenges.
The documentary’s second season has a happy ending. Wrexham fans embrace the two new owners, the team plays better than it has in years on the pitch and is promoted to League Two.
The Walkers and 14 of their entrepreneurialism and business analytics students spent 10 days in the UK in January getting an up-close look at Wrexham, analyzing the actors’ purchase and ownership of the team, and measuring the impact on the team and the region of the public attention the team received following their purchase.
While there, they also met with Humphrey Ker, the team’s executive director, and with representatives from team sponsors, Turf Pub and Stok Cold Brew coffee.
And they attended a Wrexham game, a 4-1 win over Barrow, seeing firsthand the passion of British soccer fans.
“We might think we’re hardcore Hawkeye fans at Iowa, but wait until you see a British professional soccer game,” he said.
Aside from learning about entrepreneurialism and business analytics, Bob Walker said the class taught students how to work in cross-functional teams, learn from each other, move quickly and produce a quality report.
“The business analytics students learned the entrepreneurial mindset and the entrepreneurial students learned the importance of using data to support theories and data visualization to communicate their findings,” he said. Students had only 10 days to gather and analyze the data and conduct interviews to complete their reports and presentations before they departed London.
“They had to learn to work fast and rely on their team members,” he said.
Media contact: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010 (o); 319-541-8434 (c); firstname.lastname@example.org