The success story of Ron Foxcroft and the way he changed sports forever
C/O Ted Brellisford
The year was 1984. Brazil and Uruguay were playing in a pre-Olympic basketball game in an attempt to qualify for the Olympics. With over 20,000 fans in the stands, referee Ron Foxcroft attempted to call a potentially game-changing foul down the stretch, but there was one problem.
“The score was tied, nine seconds left on the clock,” recalls Foxcroft. “I emptied my lungs into my whistle to call a foul on Brazil. The pea in the whistle stuck. Nothing, not even a peep”.
In some versions of the story, this key moment occurred at the 1976 Summer Olympics gold medal game in Montreal. Regardless, it was through this experience, a new Hamiltonian success story was born.
At age 19, Foxcroft would referee his first game at McMaster University, entering the game as an emergency replacement after one of the original referees fell ill. After an impressive debut from Foxcroft, he would land a permanent job as a new referee.
Over the years, Foxcroft made substantial progress in his career. He started as an Ontario University Athletics official, quickly moving onto bigger opportunities, including the Olympics and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. He would officiate Michael Jordan’s first-ever college game with the University of North Carolina, facing off against the Yugoslavian national team.
He was involved in several significant games throughout his career, but none were of as much importance as that Olympic match, as a single failed whistle blow would change his life forever.
After missing an important foul call, Foxcroft became determined to find a better version of the whistle for referees who struggle with the same issues as he had experienced many times throughout his career. With the help of an Oakville design consultant and a Stoney Creek plastics moulding company, Foxcroft would create the Fox 40 whistle that is commonly found today.
Upon building his team, Foxcroft went to work attempting to design the perfect whistle. The first was too big. The next wasn’t loud enough. Then it wasn’t consistent enough.
The problems went on and on, but he wasn’t prepared to back down from the challenge. After 14 prototypes, he would find the perfect design which would become the standard Fox 40 whistle. The pealess whistle was born.
After its debut at the 1987 Pan-Am games, the new whistle became extremely popular across sports. By the end of his first game, over 20,000 orders had been placed.
Since, the whistle has become the standard for the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Football League, the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League. It is also commonly found in international tournaments such as the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.
Since the rapid growth and success of his company, Foxcroft has taken on numerous other successful endeavors. He remains the chairman and chief executive officer of Fox 40 and holds the same positions with Fluke Transport, a Hamilton-based transportation company.
In 2019, Foxcroft would be awarded the Order of Canada, likely the highest of his many achievements which include the 1997 Hamilton Citizen of the Year, 2011 Burlington Entrepreneur of the Year and an Honorary Doctor of Law from McMaster University.
Ron FoxCroft, aka "Mr. Hamilton," is a long-time supporter of @mcmastersports and chaired the campaign for #DBAC and Ron Joyce Stadium. He also invented the Fox 40 pea-less whistle. Today he is being invested into the #OrderOfCanada. pic.twitter.com/xMQwhB8sIs— McMaster University (@McMasterU) September 5, 2019
Foxcroft is one of many success stories to have come out of Hamilton. He created a great product that had a lasting impact across sports and created a successful international company from his idea. The idea that began its course at McMaster University, where a 19-year-old Foxcroft would make his debut.
As Foxcroft said himself, “this all started because of McMaster University."