Dennis Signy unveils plans to keep the Football League’s PR ball
What do Margaret Thatcher, Delia Smith and Alan Shearer have in common?
Answer: they’re all mates of Dennis Signy.
Signy sits back in his north London living room and draws thoughtfully
on his cigarette - the third since the interview began half an hour
He talks of ’revolution’. But this is more important than politics, this
is football. Signy has been assigned as PR consultant to the Football
League at a time when it faces its biggest shake up in more than a
As the Premiership enjoys BSkyB’s TV rights mega-bucks, booming gate
receipts and lucrative sponsorship deals, the Football League’s 72 clubs
fear their lifeblood is being slowly sucked away in what is becoming a
two-tier sport. ’We must prove that the Football League is the heart and
soul of football,’ says Signy, ’it would be a tragedy if the fat cats of
the Premiership destroy this fabric.’
Dynamic new chairman David Sheepshanks, in conjunction with Deloitte and
Touche is developing plans to modernise the Football League, which he
hopes to present to the AGM in June. In the run up he has engaged Signy
along with consultancy Lowe Bell to handle strategic PR issues.
’We’re all waiting to see what the consultants come up with, but until
then we’re trying to raise the Football League’s image, tackle the
issues and work with the board to take us into the 21st century,’ says
While he would be the first to deny any resemblance to a spring chicken,
Signy commands instant respect. He entered journalism more than 50 years
ago as a cub reporter on the Hendon Times, moving to Fleet Street in the
late 1950s as a sports reporter.
In between two brief, and not wholly successful, spells in football club
management with Brentford FC and Queens Park Rangers, Signy became a
highly respected football writer. He has been an outspoken chairman of
the Football Writers Association and the author of many football
’Dennis runs on nervous energy and is extremely industrious,’ observes
Bill Bradshaw assistant editor on the Sunday Mirror. ’His big strength
is that he can mix easily with anyone from a snotty-nosed newspaper boy
to captains of industry.’ Other former colleagues talk of his
unflappability and meticulous nature, although one senses too much
nervous energy to be stuck long at a desk.
In 1969 Signy returned to the Hendon Times as editor, forging its
reputation as a campaigning paper. During his 17-year leadership he was
awarded an OBE for charity and community work. Signy talks of a ’good
working relationship’ with Margaret Thatcher, the local MP at the time.
More recently Signy wrote ’celebrity reports’ for the now defunct Sunday
Express, accompanying such diverse figures as Michael Howard, Cilla
Black and Delia Smith to watch their adopted football teams.
What was the appeal of the new role? ’I was a little disillusioned at
the way things finished at the Sunday Express and for the first time I
spent a period away from football,’ he says, ’I might have just stayed
in a rut and concentrated on my current book but was delighted when the
job cropped up.’
Signy admits he has been brought in by the Football League as ’a
contacts man’. There are obvious benefits in employing someone with so
many friends in Parliament and Fleet Street. But one questions why
Sheepshanks believes a veteran operator is needed at this critical
juncture for the League.
Sheepshanks responds: ’I believe in communication, Lowe Bell will act as
the catalyst for new ideas and Dennis is a wise and able journalist.
This gives us a triangle of youth, vitality and experience.’
One national football writer wonders whether Signy might regret never
concentrating on a singular role? ’No,’ replies Signy, ’football writers
don’t usually change but I’m pleased that I’ve diversified.’ As for the
experiences that lie ahead Signy will merely say: ’I’ve booked a cruise
after the AGM. He adds: ’Somebody will phone up.’
1965: General manager, Brentford Football Club
1969: Editor Hendon Times
1986: Chief executive QPR FC
1990: Chairman, Football Writers Association
1997: PR consultant to the Football League.