DURING last summer’s transfer window, alongside the high-profile signings that the newly wealthy Wrexham AFC made, there was the signing of solid centre-back Aaron Hayden from Carlisle United.

While poaching a player from the league above was a sign of the club’s ambition, one of the unexpected consequences was a video made by a Carlisle supporter who called the Welsh team “Oil Money Wrexham”. His accent and enunciation led to the video going viral among fans of the Dragons, and his face was a familiar one in WhatsApp groups throughout the season.

The joke of course, was that Wrexham wasn’t an “oil money” club, and that this poor Carlisle supporter’s anger was somewhat misguided.

What a difference a football season can make.

Wrexham have this week announced a new partnership with their “official oil partner” - perhaps a first for any football team - Lucas Oil.

As part of the deal, the US auto oil company (which has its UK and European headquarters on Ynys Mon) will have naming rights of the stand historically known as the Tech End - since the Kop’s closure this has been home to the more vociferous of Wrexham’s supporters. The part of the ground where you’re more likely to find people wearing Stone Island than replica shirts, and the heart of the Racecourse’s matchday atmosphere.

Lucas Oil was formed in 1989 by Forrest Lucas and his wife, Charlotte. Forrest had built a small fortune in charge of a haulage company but his steps into the world of engine lubrication would make him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. His net worth is currently estimated at around $500m (or about the same value as three and a half Ryan Reynoldses).

The National Wales: Lucas Oil are no strangers to football sponsorship in the north, here's Caergybi with the Lucas Oil Cup in 2019.Lucas Oil are no strangers to football sponsorship in the north, here's Caergybi with the Lucas Oil Cup in 2019.

Since its foundation, Lucas Oil has been a prominent sponsor of North American motorsports, and in 2006 acquired the stadium naming rights to the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts for the next 20 years - well and truly establishing their brand in North America and cementing Lucas’ place in the higher strata of Indiana society.

From this position, Lucas has funded the campaigns of a number of right-wing politicians in the midwestern US, including former vice president Mike Pence. It was through his connections with Pence that Lucas successfully lobbied for a presidential pardon for two farmers convicted for arson - the father and son, Dwight and Steven Hammond. Lucas famously flew them home from prison in his private jet.

The Hammonds’ case became a cause celebre in right-wing circles due to their bureaucratic imprisonment, release, and subsequent re-imprisonment. Armed right-wing extremists even took control of a government building before a 41 day siege in protest at their imprisonment, though the Hammonds distanced themselves from them.

Branching out from vehicular products, Lucas Oil also produces lubricants for firearms and sponsored a firing range at the 2019 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

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In his early twenties, Forrest Lucas saw his entire hometown of Elkington in rural Indiana flooded after the compulsory purchase of all land to provide water and power for the nearby city of Bloomington.

Much like the flooding of Tryweryn sparked a fire in the Welsh nationalist movement, the flooding of Elkington sparked something in Lucas - and that was a dislike of any and all state intervention. It’s something he’s used his money campaigning against in recent years.

Through his Protect the Harvest political group, Lucas has supported and funded a large number of political campaigns which generally focus on removing legislation from businesses, and in particular against the welfare of animals. Lucas has spent hundreds of thousands on campaigns in support of puppy farms as well as against legislation in Massachusetts ensuring that animal products didn’t come from animals confined to ultra-tight quarters.

To this end, Lucas even started a film production company whose output has been described on legendary film critic Roger Ebert’s website as “shamelessly manipulative” and “pretty bald propaganda”.

In 2014 Lucas’ wife and Lucas Oil co-owner, Charlotte, posted a Facebook message in which she said she was “sick and tired of minorities running our country”. It was swiftly deleted and Forrest was forced to take a full page advert out in the local paper to apologise to his workforce which was made up largely of immigrants in Indianapolis.

Football is of course a business, and since the takeover by Reynolds and McElhenney Wrexham have been able to bring in amazing deals from international brands.

The likes of TikTok will be providing money that’s unseen at this level of football while manipulating the algorithm to show Wrexham AFC content to unsuspecting users of their platform. Meanwhile, travel company Expedia is a perfect sponsorship partner for a business that takes a travelling entourage away every other week of the year.

Where does an “official oil partner” fit into the picture?

The National Wales: Wrexham owners Ryan Reynolds, left, and Rob McElhenney pictured at the Racecourse on Saturday before the club's defeat in the National League play offs.Wrexham owners Ryan Reynolds, left, and Rob McElhenney pictured at the Racecourse on Saturday before the club's defeat in the National League play offs.

With the level of sponsorship the new owners have attracted, why does Wrexham need money from a petrochemical company (even one without questionable ownership) during a climate crisis?

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When Newcastle United were taken over by the Saudi consortium last year, many of their fans were grateful. After years of a terrible relationship with former owner Mike Ashley they were overjoyed at the prospect of change.

But are Wrexham in the same situation? Adrift and in desperate need of a life raft of questionable sponsorship? Wrexham really have become “Oil money Wrexham”, but what’s the real price of this pact?

All commercial exchanges come with a price on the soul, it should be factored into the cost. Could it be that Wrexham have given away too much of themselves for too little in return? Small mercies of small mercies, at least it’s not a betting company.

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