by Fred S. Nonnemacher
Bethlehem for the coming season will foster a big league soccer club. A team that from all accounts will even surpass in merit t he great and powerful cup winning machine of years before. This was the definite announcement made by the parties who will again foster soccer with the assurance that some of the greatest booting classics will be played on the home lot.
For weeks it was known that negotiations were under way to revive soccer in Bethlehem with final action pending entirely on the attitude of other clubs relative to the division of gate receipts. Bethlehem would have never transferred the team to Philadelphia last season had these rival clubs assumed similar views.
When the newly organized American League was launched, the officials in session adopted a ruling whereby the home club benefited by receiving the full gate. There was strenuous objection by several clubs but the majority were in favor and the legislation was adopted. Realizing the futility of keeping soccer on a paying basis and at the same time realizing that the famed Bethlehems were the big drawing cared in the games played away from home, it was finally decided to transfer the club to Philadelphia. While the season in the Quaker City did not entail any financial loss, nevertheless, the support was far less than anticipated, particularly so when the expense connected with transporting the club from Bethlehem to Philadelphia for every game was considered.
With most of the players remaining in Bethlehem during the summer and a flood of applications received from new talent, it was finally decided to again revive soccer, pending, of course, the change in the ruling relative to the split of the game receipts. Also it is believed that with the boom enjoyed by the sport last season, the strong and rival competition that will be presented and the interest attached with rival clubs through the jumping of a bevy of local stars will stimulate local enthusiasm and attract more than the usual corporal guards. Those promoting the proposition have no intentions whatever of commercializing the sport or conducing soccer with any intention of realizing any financial gain, but have made it plain that if the gate covers the expenses, Bethlehem will this season and for a good many seasons to come be represented by one of the best, if not the best, soccer clubs in the country. It is sincerely hoped that fans w ill rally to the cause and by cooperation be instrumental in promoting this great civic enterprise.
Word hat the city would again be represented in big league soccer is a bit of news that soccer fans have patiently waited for ever since it was intimated quite some time ago that such plans were being considered. However, it was somewhat unexpected at this time, believing that since the matter was dependent entirely on a suitable adjustment of the receipts, nothing official would be known until after the next meeting of the American League magnates.
That favorable action will be taken and the gate satisfactorily divided with visiting clubs, it is learned, was the private information received by the local management from all the clubs in question which clinched the plans for a Bethlehem team.
Although holding out for the original ruling, the clubs in the circuit apparently fully realized the attractive tendencies of playing the Bethlehems and when they were assured that the management was sincere in its determination to drop soccer unless an adjustment was made the clubs rallied to the cause. As the result the action of Bethlehem to support a team will not only please home town fans, but will be heralded with keen delight by every sincere fan and club in the country. While no announcement is made by the division and will hardly be forthcoming before the meeting of the American League magnates, it is believed that it will be something like 80-20, with the visiting club receiving the short end.
Last year the Bethlehems playing under the name of the Philadelphia F. C. were entered in the newly organized American League and one cup competition. For next season the club will g o one better by including with the membership in the league, entry in the American and National cup competition, classics in which Bethlehem garnered the honors oftener than any other club in the country.
Probably by this time a tentative scheduled is being drafted. Just how many games are to be played is not known, but from good authority it is learned that in all likelihood there will be fifteen league contests and five cup contests, if not more of the latter, to be played on the home field, which again will be the Bethlehem Steel athletic field. In arranging the schedule particular attention will be made not to conflict with local collegiate and scholastic football schedules with the exception of where the latter have weak opponents or what could be termed mere practice games. This will give the Bethlehem F. C. about two games in October and the like number in November, with games coming along in rapid fire succession immediately after the gridiron season closes down.
Whether or not Philadelphia will be represented in the league is still a matter of conjecture. It is believed that the Quaker City fans were looking to Bethlehem to again transfer the team to that city, but since no such action will be forthcoming, it would be no surprise if the Quakers would drip the project. However, there is a ray of hope that enough soccer enthusiasts in that city will band together and come across with a club.
To the old National League is attributed the downfall of soccer in a good many communities, including Bethlehem, for the slipshod manner in which the circuit was conducted. It was nothing unusual to have teams in that circuit fail to appear on scheduled dates or to appear with an abbreviated lineup and have to fill the vacancies with home talent. All those conditions had a tendency to upset the enthusiasm of the fans which, when cup games were played, had a marked effect on the attendance.
The American League, however, has profited by that experience and the conditions are such that disappointments cannot prevail. To assure good faith in honoring the schedule and to finish the season, every club is compelled to deposit a forfeit of $500. In addition there are fines provided for where there is the least infraction of the rulings. All of which mans that when clubs are scheduled to play the team will have to appear intact and with their regular lineups.
Probably its opening game, or at least one of the first, will be a clash with J & P Coats of Pawtucket, R. I., the club which lured away five of the Bethlehem satellites. As another detail of inspiring interest among the local followers, it might not be amiss at this time to call attention to the sprinkling of former Bethlehem stars who will be seen with the many rival clubs.
As a fitting introduction in reviving the sport, it is practically definitely assured that the famous Newcastle ladies soccer team will be the attraction in Bethlehem either Sept. 13 or 20, pitted against the Bethlehem F. C. Negotiations are all but closed and it is said that definite understanding is being held up by which one of the two dates would be the more satisfactory. If the Sept. 13 is selected, the Bethlehem players will go into training Sept. 1.
By bringing the ladies here, an aggregation of soccer players thoroughly seasoned and credited with defeating some of the strongest clubs in England, the Bethlehem management has succeeded in getting an attraction that many other big cities were refused. The itinerary of the ladies, practically closed, will include exhibition games in every principal city of the United States. The team will sail for America late this month and will be ready to start active campaigning early in September which incidentally would bring them to Bethlehem for one of the first games on American soil.
Just what the personnel of the home club will be has not been divulged, but assurance is given that the team will rank second to none in the country if the players in question hold good to their application. A rumor that many of the veterans of years past would return was partly killed by the announcement that it is the intention of the club to inject new blood and if possible include younger and faster players in the lineup. Harold Brittan, it is understood, will remain, and will probably be appointed to captain the team.