Obituary: Dennis Signy

Every member of the Football Writers’ Association would agree – without the drive and input of former chairman Dennis Signy OBE and his wife Pat, for many years executive secretary, the FWA would not be where it is today.

Dennis passed away at 4am this morning aged 85. It is difficult to think of anyone who has contributed as much to football writing and particularly the FWA as Dennis.

Tributes poured in from those who knew Dennis. “He was old school and new school and was widely respected by everyone,” said executive secretary Paul McCarthy, a former chairman. “Dennis was the main reason I wanted to join the FWA. He went on a recruitment drive to bring in some new blood. He explained to me the history of the FWA, what it meant and what an honour it was to serve on the committee.

“When I joined the News of the World as a young reporter he was one of the first to phone me up and offer any assistance. Dennis was brilliant. He was a sounding board for young journalists. He told us never to cut corners and was always willing to help.”

“Dennis and Pat were hugely supportive of the FWA, not least the regional dinners,” said former chairman Steve Bates. “They attended every dinner around the country. Dennis must take a great deal of credit for pushing the FWA to where it is today and ensuring a close relationship with all the footballing bodies, particularly the Football League.”

Mike Collett, Reuters global football editor, first met Dennis as a 16-year-old schoolboy and started to work for him at the Hendon Times two years later:

He said: “Dennis was my first editor when I joined the Hendon Times as an 18-year-old in 1972 giving me a job and keeping me on throughout my indentures despite insisting every other week that I should get my hair cut. He was a brilliant editor, a real inspiration and a guiding light throughout my career. He loved to tell the story of how I conned him on expenses every week claiming 50p mileage to visit Elstree Fire Station for my weekly call — until he eventually found out it had closed five years earlier. He asked for the money back – he never got it. A wonderful man, a true Fleet Street and football legend, He will be sadly missed.”

John Ley of the Daily Telegraph said: “He was an absolute font of knowledge for everything connected with football. The fact that he was honoured tells you all you need to know about him.”

Dennis Signy was a former wartime cub reporter on the Hendon and Finchley Times at £4-a-week and became group editor for 17 years in the late Sixties. He was a national football writer for five decades, spending 17 years with the News of the World and five with the Times. He was also the author of several football books.

Commanding instant respect from everyone involved in the sport, Dennis had brief spells with Brentford and Queens Park Rangers as chief executive and in 1969 returned to the Hendon Times as editor, forging its reputation as a campaigning paper. During his 17-year leadership he was awarded an OBE in 1983 for charity and community work in the Barnet area.

Dennis livened up press boxes when he wrote celebrity reports for the Sunday Express, accompanying such diverse figures as Michael Howard, Cilla Black, Jeremy Paxman and Delia Smith to watch their adopted football teams.

He became a consultant to the Football League who recognised the benefits in employing someone with so many friends in Parliament and Fleet Street.

More recently Dennis was PR consultant to Barnet chairman Tony Kleanthous.

Our thoughts are with his family and wife Pat at these saddest of times



  1. Avatar

    Bob Harris

    June 6, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Dennis Signy kept pace with the rapidly changing face of football and journalism.He will be fondly remembered by this old hack
    Bob Harris

  2. Avatar

    Jeff Powell

    June 6, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Without Dennis and Pat there would have been no FWA. This is very sad news. Dennis was a warm, generous and much loved man as well as a brilliant leader of our organisation. I am in Las Vegas but my thoughts are with Pat.

  3. Avatar

    Brian Scovell

    June 6, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Dennis knew everyone and everything in our game and wasn’t shy at passing on the info, even to his rivals. I was one of countless young journalists he helped and I was only sorry I didn’t have a chance to see him in his final days to tell him what a great man he was. But Claire, one of his daughters, said he wasn’t in pain. He was ready to be transferred to the only club that counts.

    Brian Scovell

  4. Avatar


    June 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    A true gentleman, Dennis always had time to speak to fans as well and listen to their views. He will be fondly remembered at Barnet FC where he spenmt his last years. RIP my friend.

  5. Avatar

    Mick Dennis

    June 6, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Pat used to have to sit outside the main room at early Footballer of the Year dinners, because of her gender. Yet she just got on with the job of making the event go smoothly. She was a wonderful support for Dennis, and hacks of my generation will think of her sadness now. Dennis earned the respect and trust of all football folk and everyone in the media; a balancing act which seemed tortuous to those of us who observed it, but which was easy for him because it only involved being true to his nature and truthful to everyone. In the last few years, spotting him and Pat (always a double act) across a room was a joy, because it meant there would be an entertaining informative natter with the giant who did so much to make our job a profession.

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    Alex Montgomery

    June 7, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    “Dennis was an extraordinary man, superb journalist and certainly the most accomplished contact man in Fleet Street over nearly five decades. His contacts ranged from national administrators to club directors, managers, coaches and players. It was his regard for them and his honesty and delight in dealing with them that earned him their trust and that of his colleagues on the road. I am privileged to have known Dennis since the late sixties first through Hayters Sports Agency. Since then he moved from journalism, to football club administration to working closely with the Football League. Despite those occasional diversions journalism was his first and most compelling passion and finding a story his greatest satisfaction. The help he offered young journalists is as legendary as his commitment, with wife Pat alongside him, to maintaining the high standards of the FWA.”

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  9. Avatar

    Tony Ward

    June 8, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Dennis, a true friend to all Referees, my condolences to Pat and the Family.
    If only there were more like him.

  10. Avatar

    Larry Signy

    June 8, 2012 at 11:11 am

    As Big Den’s baby brother,can I thank everyone who’s paid such smashing (and in my opinion deserved) tributes.

    As a journo myself I always tried to match his standards, and although I did quite well in my own field I was always in a bit of awe over his abilities. As I always said – we were exactly alike – but that he did it better.


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    Matt Nixson

    June 13, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    I’m not a football writer but was lucky enough to be taken under Dennis’s wing when working at the Hendon & Finchley Times at the start of the Millennium. He was inspiring. Full stop. Always full of great stories and happy to share his experience and time with a young whippersnapper. I’m very sorry to hear about his passing, and my thoughts are with Pat and his family. A great journalist.

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    Pete Rowe

    June 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I had the great pleasure of working with Dennis (with two n’s) at the Football league late 90s. He was an inspiration – and a great friend.
    As a journalist myself, I greatly admired his professionalism, his love of nipping outside for a smoke and a glass of whisky at many a dinner.
    He will be missed by many – sadly as I now live in Australia I could not attend the funeral – but I have read the church was packed, as it rightfully should have been. Rest in peace mate, you were one of the best.

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    Peter Serlin

    March 23, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Having not been to Barnet FC for nearly a year, I was not aware of Dennis’s passing. He was a lovely man and always happy to chat about the old days to fans. He will be sorely missed and my heartfelt condolences to his family.

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