|This article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2009)|
|Based in||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|Home field||Franklin Field|
|Head coach||Ron Waller (1974)
Willie Wood (1975)
|Owner(s)||John B. Kelly, Jr.
|League||World Football League|
|Colours||Blue and gold ‹See Tfm› ‹See Tfm›|
The Philadelphia Bell was a franchise in the World Football League, which operated in 1974 and a portion of a season in 1975. The Bell played their home games at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. The team logo was a representation of the Liberty Bell.
The Bell was one of just two WFL teams that maintained the same ownership in both 1974 and 1975. The group was headed by John B. Kelly, Jr., a respected business and sportsman in Philadelphia and part of the well-known Kelly family, which included his sister Grace Kelly, movie star turned Princess of Monaco. The major money contributor behind the ownership group was John Bosacco, who came forward during the first season and took over the operations of the franchise. Bosacco believed that the WFL could survive as a league and he was instrumental in the removal of Gary Davidson as commissioner following the 1974 season. Ron Waller was hired as head coach in 1974. Waller was fired during training camp at Glassboro State University (now called Rowan University) in 1975. He was replaced by NFL Hall of Famer Willie Wood for the entirety of the 1975 season.
At first the team seemed to be one of the WFL's most popular teams. They announced a crowd of 55,534 for the home opener, and 64,719 for the second home game. However, when the Bell paid city taxes on the attendance figures two weeks later, it emerged that they had inflated the gate on a scale almost unprecedented in professional sports. It was later revealed that the Bell sold block tickets to several area businesses at a discount, and the tax revenue was not reported. In turn, many of these businesses gave away the tickets for free. The actual paid attendance for the home opener was only 13,855, while the paid attendance for the second game was only 6,200. In many cases, several of those paid tickets were sold well below face value. It was presumed that the Bell had sold the so-called "freebies" to pique interest. Nonetheless, the "Papergate" scandal, as it was dubbed by the press, made the Bell and the WFL look foolish, and proved to be a humiliation from which neither recovered.
During the 1974 season, the Bell finished with a losing season, finishing 9–11, one game behind the Charlotte Hornets for the final playoff spot. However, advance ticket sales for the Hornets' first-round game against the Florida Blazers in Orlando were so meager that the financially troubled Hornets (who had moved from New York City in mid-season) would not have come close to meeting their travel expenses. At the request of league officials, the Bell advanced in their place and lost to the Blazers, 18-3.
Despite the Papergate fiasco, the Bell were reckoned as one of the WFL's stronger franchises, and at least had the potential to have been successful had the WFL been better run. Bosacco was one of only three owners, along with the Memphis Southmen's John F. Bassett and The Hawaiians' Sam Battisone, thought to be capable of fielding a team in 1975. Those three teams had also been the only ones to meet payroll every week of the season.
The Bell had a record of 4–7 in 1975 at the time of the league's dissolution.
Vince Papale, the inspiration for the 2006 film Invincible, played wide receiver for the Bell for two seasons prior to his three years with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bell's starting quarterback was King Corcoran, who spent most of his career in the minor leagues due to his refusal to accept a backup quarterback position. Both Papale and Corcoran had recently played in the Seaboard Football League, the minor league that was active at the time in the area.