Whistle calls time on Brown at West Ham

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Supporters and shareholders of West Ham United have called for Terence Brown, the club's chairman, to resign to secure the club's survival as a "serious force" in English football.

The shareholders claim a new management team could take over the club and organise a refinancing of its £44.7m debt within weeks.

The rebel group, calling itself Whistle, claims that a growing financial crisis threatens West Ham, even if it wins promotion to the Premiership via this season's First Division play-offs. The sale of prize playing assets, such as Joe Cole, has failed to stem the club's financial slide, claim the rebel shareholders. Player sales will continue even in the Premiership, they say, in order to service the club's debts.

Whistle claims to represent 1,000 West Ham shareholders and has fired off 180 questions to the club relating to its management and its financial stability.

In a move similar to that of Cubic Expression, Manchester United's biggest shareholder, Whistle's questions relate to player transfers, including those of Cole and Glen Johnson to Chelsea, and payments by the club to players' agents.

But Whistle's letter also asks questions about West Ham's banking arrangements with Barclays, its debts and whether there are commercial relationships between club directors and suppliers and contractors.

Yesterday a spokesman for West Ham said the club was making no comment on the Whistle letter. He said that Paul Aldridge, West Ham's managing director, had already dismissed weekend reports that the club faced a "financial crisis".