Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Bert Wolstein’ tag

1978-1988 Cleveland Force

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Major Indoor Soccer League (1978-1988)

Born: 1978 – Major Indoor Soccer League founding franchise
Folded: July 22, 1988 – The Force cease operations.

Arena: The Richfield Coliseum (17,217)

Team Colors: Reflex Blue & Yellow

Owners:

MISL Championships: None

 

The Cleveland Force were a tremendously popular indoor soccer franchise during the 1980’s at the peak of the sport’s popularity.  Formed in 1978 as one of six founding franchises in the upstart Major Indoor Soccer League, the team’s success was slowing in developing.  Attendance was low in the team’s earlier years.  It wasn’t until the 1982-83 season when the team’s popularity boomed and began to far outpace the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, their co-tenants at the suburban Richfield Coliseum.  (It helped that the Cavs were in the death grip of Ted Stepien in this era, widely reviled by Clevelanders as one of the worst pro sports owners who ever walked the Earth.)

There were other MISL clubs that drew great crowds during this era, notably the Kansas City Comets and St. Louis Steamers.  But the Force are frequently cited as the only MISL franchise ever to turn an annual operating profit.  In addition to drawing large crowds, the team also had a strong sponsorship base, a booming camps program and a strong merchandise business.

While the Force were doing well, the same could not be said for the rest of the MISL.  Franchises came and went so quickly that fans and sponsors could barely keep track.  Between 1985 and 1987, the league endured the embarrassment of seeing two New York franchises go out of business at the mid-season All-Star Break.  The league engaged in bruising annual battles with the Players Association.  After long-running franchises in Chicago, Minnesota and St. Louis pulled out of the league in the summer of 1988, Force owner Bert Wolstein shut down the team in July 1988, seeing no viable way forward for the league.

The MISL, loathe to lose one of its few proven markets, quickly expanded back into Cleveland in the fall of 1989.  The Cleveland Crunch brought back a number of Force players and front office execs, most notably the Force’s popular perennial All-Star Kai Haaskivi.  But it wasn’t the same and the big crowds and corporate support of the Wolstein era didn’t return.

Although the Crunch never re-created the buzz of the Force, the new team actually lasted longer, playing 13 seasons from 1989 to 2002.  In 1999 a new group which included former Cleveland Force front office executive Paul Garofolo bought the Crunch from original owner George Hoffman for a reported $1.75 million.  In 2002, the new owners re-branded the team anew as the Cleveland Force.  (The “New” Force also played in a “New” Major Indoor Soccer League, which had no connection to the original league, which had folded in 1992.)   The retro/nostalgia angle didn’t take.  Crowds remained small and the new Force folded in 2005.

 

Cleveland Force Shop


Force Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max

 

Cleveland Force Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Bert Wolstein, Cleveland Force owner.  Passed away May 17, 2004 at age 77

Forward Paul Kitson (1987-88 season) died of a heart attack on August 25, 2005 at age 49.

Ian Anderson, with the Force from 1980-1982, died November 5, 2008 at age 54.

English midfielder Roy Sinclair, who played for the Force from 1978 to 1981, died on January 12, 2013 at age 68.

 

Force Video

Cleveland Force vs. San Diego Sockers in the 1988 MISL Championship Series

 

Downloads

1987-88 Major Indoor Soccer League Rule Book & Schedule 

 

Links

Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs

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Written by AC

January 20th, 2013 at 2:24 am

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