Ron Foxcroft was a referee with a problem. Since an injury ended his football - playing days at age 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 ARRIVES ON TIME, IT'S A FLUKE. " Although in demand around the world as a referee of professional and even Olympic basketball games, Ron 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 the 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 roaring crowds.
Although the occasional malfunctioning of small plastic whistle 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 substantial embarrassment from time to time. On one particularly frustrating occasion, a crowd of 18,000 fans (a record for basketball in Canada) at the Montreal Olympic finals booed and hissed at Foxcroft when a Yugoslav 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.
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 Dan
Bruneau, the President of Promold Corporation, a plastics molding company in Stony
Creek, Ontario. Bruneau agreed to make parts for such a whistle if Foxcroft could present him with a
design. He also recommended an Oakville, Ontario design consultant, Chuck Shepherd, who
agreed to take on the project. Steve and Dave Foxcroft joined the research, development
and promotional team. The sales team is now comprised of Executive Vice President - Steve
Foxcroft, Vice President, Dave Foxcroft, and Accounts Manager - Carolyn Foxcroft. The very busy production department is headed up by Roy Allemann and the Accounts Payable and Receivable is executed by Debera McCulloch.
The first prototype Chuck produced was louder and more reliable than a pea-whistle, but too large and awkward. Undaunted, Shepherd worked with Foxcroft through more than 14 prototypes before at last perfecting the Fox 40 pea-less whistle (named for Foxcroft and for the fact that Ron was 40 on the day he had his invention patented). The Fox 40 whistle looked, felt, and sounded very much like its predecessor, but worked on a very different principle. A pea-whistle gets its shrill trill from the movement of the small cork pea in its interior, which alternately covers and uncovers the hole through which air is released. This produces a rapid alternation of sound and silence, the characteristic whistle vibrato - until the pea gets stuck in the hole. The Fox 40 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.
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 $ 100,000 from his own private funds and, in 1987 he created Fortron Inc. The Whistle is a plastic Molded injection process that is ultrasonically welded together, rather than glued. This process has been perfected by Promold Corporation, in
Stony Creek, Ontario.
The Fox 40 whistle was a success from the first time it was used professionally, at the 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 pea-less whistle was tested by the National Hockey League and had become the whistle of choice in the National Basketball Association, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Canadian Football League. It was heard above the crowd at the Seoul Olympics and was the whistle of choice in the 1990 World Cup Soccer held in Italy, and the 1994 World Cup held in the United States. Today the Fox 40 Whistle is sold in over 96 Countries, not only to referees but to coaches, water safety, rescue teams, personal safety, dog owners and trainers, and all sports enthusiasts. In fact, the Fox 40 Whistle is an approved and recommended sound signaling device with Coast Guards Worldwide.
The Fox 40 Whistle is patented in every Country. Foxcroft says, "Automation is your best form of protection, even better than a patent in some cases". He believes that for a new product to succeed, it must be cheaper than products of the competitors. Furthermore, the developer must use innovative merchandising. "If you don't have innovative merchandising and packaging, you leave your product susceptible to the competition beating it out". In addition, Foxcroft solved his problem and, in the process, made life a little easier for referees everywhere.