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Whistle was a supporter's pressure group, created by fans of West Ham United that were critical of its Chairman, Terry Brown, following the club's relegation in 2003 and the subsequent sale of many of their top players. In April 2004, the group published a dossier accusing the board of financial incompetence, and asking 180 questions regarding the club's finances. Whistle claimed that around £20 million had been pledged to them by anonymous investors willing to buy into the club via a share issue if major lenders could force Brown to step down. Barclays Bank were the biggest single lender to the club.
Spokesman Mike Hanna was quoted as saying:
"Despite selling all the crown jewels, which you can't sell again, Brown has failed to address the debt situation. We're now a Nationwide First Division club and we are not generating the revenue to handle our current financial position. The banks are begging for a credible alternative. They are waiting for an approach which will handle the debt. We have people associated with ourselves who are influential within the City and would offer the financial institutions an alternative."
Terry Brown and West Ham threatened to initiate legal action towards its members. Brown said at the time:
"We do not have a financial crisis at West Ham and have not had one at any time since our relegation. It is unacceptable that, at such a crucial time in our season, someone should seek to undermine all the hard work of Alan, the players and our staff by issuing information that contains so many lies simply to mislead and demoralise our fans who have given West Ham such fantastic support throughout the season. We will be taking legal action against Mr Hanna and other members of the Whistle group to protect the club from these scurrilous allegations. May I urge every single fan to ignore this nonsense and back our boys."
West Ham's solicitors followed up with a letter to the group:
"We demand that you immediately desist from making any further untrue and defamatory remarks regarding our client. If you fail to provide an undertaking confirming that you will do so, any further such statements will be used to support a claim for aggravated damages in the proceedings our client is going to initiate against you."
Legal proceedings were commenced against three members of Whistle. During 2004, two of the members submitted public apologies.
- "Hammers face power struggle". BBC News. 27 April 2004. Retrieved 28 December 2009.
- Simons, Raoul (29 April 2004). "Battle stations at West Ham". Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 1 May 2004. Retrieved 28 December 2009. (Sourced from the Wayback Machine.)
- Simons, Raoul (6 May 2004). "Brown seeks to gag fans' group". Evening Standard. Retrieved 28 December 2009.
- "No hammer blow for Whistle". breakingnews.ie. Thomas Crosbie Media. 9 July 2004. Retrieved 28 December 2009.