Profile: Dennis Signy, Football League - In a league of his own

Dennis Signy unveils plans to keep the Football League’s PR ball rolling.

Dennis Signy unveils plans to keep the Football League’s PR ball

rolling.



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

ago.



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

century.



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

Signy.



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

books.



’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.’



HIGHLIGHTS



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.



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