New Burnley minority owner JJ Watt is drawing inspiration from Wrexham mania in his new investment. The former NFL star, along with his wife, recently purchased a stake in the Lancashire club. Watt has even spoken with Wrexham co-owner Ryan Reynolds about his new endeavor.
Reynolds apparently gave Watt some tips on how to hit the ground running as a soccer team owner. “The number one thing Ryan said was recognizing the tribalism in football,” Watt told The Athletic in an exclusive interview. “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 honor that history and tradition and do right by that group otherwise you will lose them before you start.”
Watt, like many soccer fans in the United States, has been keeping track of Wrexham from the other side of the pond. “It’s been fun to watch him and Rob 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.”
American football star off on the right foot with fans
The gregarious former NFL star is seemingly off to a good start with the club’s supporters. Watt recently went on a pub crawl around Burnley to meet fans of the team and help grow a better understanding of the club on a local level. He has made it very clear that he wants a strong connection with the community.
Watt has also entered the fray with the team at a perfect time. Burnley won the Championship this season to earn promotion back to the Premier League. The Clarets essentially dominated the second-tiered English division under manager Vincent Kompany. Watt was even able to join in on the recent celebrations inside Turf Moor as well.
JJ Watt recently lifted the Championship trophy on the Burnley pitch
“I kind of feel like the kid in class who didn’t do any of the work in the group project but got an A anyway,” Watt joked about investing at an opportune time. “I don’t feel worthy of being part of all the celebrations. When Alan (Pace) asked me to walk the trophy out onto the pitch I said no, I didn’t feel I had earned it; everybody else earned it I shouldn’t be the first person to touch it. They insisted, so I did it.”
Watt, and of course Burnley fans, will be hoping that the team can become a hit Stateside like Wrexham. The Welsh club regularly records impressive viewership numbers here in the States. In fact, Wrexham has become more popular than some Major League Soccer clubs in America.
“It’s so cool the way NBC does it with Premier League mornings, they have fan zones and fan fests,” said Watt, who used to be a Chelsea fan. “You see Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea kits; I want to see more Burnley. It’s not an easy task but neither was getting 100 points in the Championship. We’re all here to do our jobs and that’s mine so bring it on.”
Similar to McElhenney, Watt has found a connection with a club in Britain that he can relate to.
“Unbelievable history, great town. I’m from a small town in Wisconsin,” Watt said. “It’s all about hard-working people. There is a Premier League pedigree, a manager who has a pedigree of his own and a vision of the future and a style of football that’s beautiful and the ownership is incredible.
“I can come into a club and a town like Burnley and do that. That was a really big thing for us and I can go on a journey with this club and try and do my little part in elevating us.”
Photo: IMAGO / PA Images
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