Ron Foxcroft was a referee with a whistle problem
Since an injury ended Ron’s football playing days at the age of 17, he gained satisfaction as a basketball referee. Eventually refereeing became a very successful part-time career, in addition to his full-time job as President of a Hamilton, Ontario trucking company, Fluke Transport & Warehousing, which sports the famous slogan "If It's On Time, It's A Fluke." Foxcroft was in demand around the world as a referee of professional and even Olympic basketball games, but he found himself frequently let down by his one piece of essential equipment.
"I always had a problem with whistles," he explains. "They have a cork pea in them and when you blow a pea-whistle really hard, nothing comes out. When they're frozen or wet or get some dirt inside, they lose their efficiency." As a result, Foxcroft, like many other referees, sometimes found himself unable to stop play even though he saw a clear violation take place. In a fast-moving game like basketball, a whistle that fails does not get a second chance to sound. In a really big game, even when the whistle did work, the play occasionally was not stopped because the whistle's sound was drowned out by the noise of the roaring crowds.
Although the occasional malfunctioning of small plastic whistles was hardly a problem likely to cripple professional basketball, it did hinder proper enforcement of the rules, not to mention causing referees such as Foxcroft embarrassment from time to time. On one particularly frustrating occasion, a crowd of 18,000 fans (a record at that time for basketball attendance in Canada) at the Montreal Olympic finals, booed and hissed at Foxcroft when a Yugoslavian player elbowed a U.S. team member and was not penalized. Foxcroft had seen the infraction and blown his whistle, but it had failed to sound!
Conception of the Fox 40 Pealess Whistle
Eventually, he decided it was up to him to improve the situation. He made a wish list of features for a better whistle, and Foxcroft showed it to a plastics molding company in Stoney Creek, Ontario. They agreed to make parts for such a whistle if Foxcroft could present them with a design. They also recommended an Oakville, Ontario design consultant, Chuck Shepherd, who agreed to take on the project.
The first prototype Chuck produced was louder and more reliable than a pea-style whistle, but too large and awkward. Undaunted, Shepherd worked with Foxcroft through more than 14 prototypes before at last perfecting the Fox 40 pealess whistle. The Fox 40 whistle looked, felt and sounded very much like its predecessor, but worked on a very different principle. A pea-style whistle gets its shrill from the movement of the small cork pea in its interior, which alternately covers and uncovers the hole through which air is released. This process produces a rapid alternation of sound and silence, the characteristic whistle vibrato – until the pea gets stuck in the hole.
The Fox 40 Pealess Whistle is much like a harmonically-tuned instrument, because it produces three slightly different frequencies simultaneously. The different frequencies are superimposed on one another out of phase, and thus alternately reinforce and cancel out each other. The result is a loud, piercing vibrato that has no moving parts to get stuck. The whistle is a plastic-molded injection process that is ultrasonically welded together, rather than glued.
Perseverance pays off!
Although Foxcroft was convinced a better whistle would sweep the basketball market, he was unable to obtain bank financing for the venture. He managed to put together $150,000 from his own private funds and, in 1987, he created Fox 40 International Inc.
The Fox 40 Pealess Whistle was a success from the first time it was used professionally, at the 1987 Pan Am Games in Indianapolis, Indiana. Foxcroft was surprised to discover how far beyond basketball its appeal traveled – even the Indianapolis Police Department was interested in using this new whistle. In 1990, the pealess whistle was tested by the National Hockey League (NHL) and had become the whistle of choice for the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Football League (NFL), the Arena Football League (AFL) and the Canadian Football League (CFL). It was heard above the crowd at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and was the whistle of choice in the 1990 World Cup Soccer held in Italy, the 1994 World Cup held in the United States and the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea. Fox 40 Pealess Whistles have since been used in numerous world-class tournaments, leagues and every Olympics.
Ron's son, Dave Foxcroft, joined the research, development and promotional team and is currently President and C.O.O. In over 30 years of business, the company has grown and is now comprised of a Canadian head office with a U.S. based sister company Tri-Foxco U.S.A. Fox 40 whistles are sold in over 140 countries, not only to referees, but to coaches, water safety, search and rescue teams, personal security, animal trainers and all sport enthusiasts as well as the outdoor and premium incentive markets. In fact, the Fox 40 Pealess Whistle is an approved and recommended sound-signaling device for the Coast Guards worldwide.
The complete line of Fox 40 products has since grown substantially! The line now includes Whistles, Whistle Attachments, Fox 40 Gear, Pro Coaching Boards, Mouthguards and Marine & Outdoor products. Fox 40 continues to invest in new technology, designs and machinery, resulting in many new products being launched each year.