David Haigh

David Lawrence Haigh is a British Human Rights lawyer[1] and international crisis and media manager, entrepreneur and philanthropist.

David Haigh
David Haigh talks with the media about human rights in the UAE.
David Lawrence Haigh

Manchester, United Kingdom
EducationSouthampton University LLB Hons Law
OccupationLawyer and crisis manager, entrepreneur, co-founder of Detained, Stirling Haigh and Sport Capital
Years active1995–present

Haigh is the former managing director of Leeds United Football Club and Chairman of Leeds United Ladies Football Club. He is the CEO and founder of the Sport Capital Group, a financier or Leeds United Football Club. Haigh was convicted of fraud charges in Dubai and spent 22-months in prison, where he claims he was tortured and raped. He is a campaigner for human rights and justice in the UAE, specifically on unfair trials, torture, Interpol and extraditions.

Haigh is the founder and joint managing director of Haigh International Justice, a dispute resolution, crisis and media management strategic advisor. He co-founded Legal Advocacy NGO Detained International in 2018. Haigh is an active campaigner for anti-homophobia in sport, credited with helping pave the way for LGBT players and managers in football.


Haigh attended Cape Cornwall School, England.[2] He then studied at University of Southampton, where he graduated with a degree in law[3] and attended law school at the College of Law in London.[4]


Haigh has practiced law in the United Kingdom, the Caribbean and Dubai.[4] He joined west Mayfair law firm Palmer Cowen (later Fairmays LLP) in 2001 and has worked at several international law firms including DLA Piper and US law firm Akin Gump.[4]


Haigh led GFH Capital's negotiations with the then-owner of Leeds United, Ken Bates, for the acquisition of the club.[5] The agreement was formally announced at a press conference at Elland Road in November 2012.[6] Haigh joined the Leeds United board in February 2013.[7] On 1 July 2013, Haigh was made Managing Director of the club following the departure of now Football League CEO Shaun Harvey.[7][8] On 11 April 2014, Haigh resigned as Managing Director following the purchase of the club by Massimo Cellino.[7]

In November 2013 Haigh and Andre Flowers, managing director of Enterprise Insurance, formed a consortium called Sport Capital to purchase the majority of the shares in the club from GFH Capital.[9] Haigh is said to have fallen out with GFH Capital after they sold the club to Italian businessman Massimo Cellino and not Sport Capital. Sport Capital Launched a £33.5 million claim against GFH Capital.[10] Following the failure of the acquisition Sport Capital remained a financier of Leeds United.[11]

After the Cornish non-league side Penzance AFC reached out to Haigh on social media looking for help, he joined the board as a committee member with the team sitting bottom of the South West Peninsula League Division One West, the 11th tier of English football.[12]


Haigh is a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales (non Practising).[4]

Haigh was the co-founder, along with Radha Stirling, and managing partner of Stirling Haigh, a London-based international dispute resolution, crisis management and strategic advisory firm which specializes in criminal and civil disputes in Dubai, the wider UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.[citation needed]

He co-founded Detained International, a London-based legal advocacy NGO that provides pro bono legal advocacy to victims of injustice, inequality and other human rights violations in the UAE and the wider Middle East.[13][14]


Haigh was Chairman of Conservatives Abroad UAE[15] and Vice Chairman of Gulf Tories and as its Vice-Chairman.[16]

LGBT equality activism

Leeds United

Haigh made Leeds United the first Stonewall Diversity champion for LGBT rights in Football.[17] On the same day former Leeds United Player Robbie Rogers joined Haigh on the pitch to launch his anti-discrimination charity.[18]

Rogers came out as gay after leaving Leeds United in 2011. LA Galaxy player Rogers publicly supported Haigh's 2017 ComeOut2Play campaign to support gay football players.

Arrest, torture, and litigation in Dubai

In May 2014 Haigh was arrested in Dubai.[19] Haigh claims that he was lured to Dubai[20] by GFH to discuss a new job.[21] His arrest related to allegations of fraud and embezzlement from his time at GFH Capital.[22] According to Dubai Police he is alleged to have embezzled AED23.7 million (about US$6.7 million) from his former employers. The irregularities were allegedly discovered during a routine internal audit.[23]

In August 2015, Haigh was convicted of "breach of trust" and received a two-year jail sentence.[24][25]

Haigh was due to return to the UK following his earlier case when on the day of Haigh's release, Gulf Finance House filed a criminal complaint that Haigh had abused them on Twitter while in jail.[26] Haigh was acquitted of this charge in March 2016, and returned to the UK a few days later on Good Friday where he gave a series of television and press interviews setting out the treatment, torture abuse and unfair trials he suffered.[27]

In July 2018, Justice Sir Jeremy Cooke upheld a judgment in the Dubai International Finance Centre Courts that Haigh had forged invoices and fraudulently directed funds.[25] Haigh was ordered to pay nearly £3.8 million plus costs, and his counterclaims were dismissed.[25] GFH said it would start enforcement proceedings against Haigh in Dubai and London.[24][28]

Private prosecution

While in Dubai Haigh hired English barrister Alun Jones QC and Thom Dyke and Keystone law Alison Bradley and Mark Spragg to file a private prosecution against GFH and their former lawyer Peter Gray of Gibson Dunn for human trafficking and fraud.[29] Haigh withdrew the application when he lost access to lawyers. After his release Haigh took the case to judicial review at the High Court in England, and has stated that he is committed to following through with the private prosecution.[citation needed]

Haigh's hired WikiLeaks lawyer Melinda Taylor and Alun Jones QC to take the UAE to the United Nations for breaches of his human rights including, torture, unfair trial, arbitrary detention and discrimination on grounds of sexuality.[30]

Mental health

Following release from jail in the UAE, Haigh has had a battle with PTSD. Haigh was reported to have felt "suicidal" whilst detained in 2015 following being tortured and raped.[31] He has talked widely about these feelings with prisoner charity Prisoners Abroad with whom he is now an ambassador.[citation needed]

Haigh spent two months in the Priory Hospital in 2015.[32]


In April 2013 Haigh completed a 250 kilometres (160 mi) arctic charity husky trail to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which supports his niece Sienna, who lives with the genetic disorder Homocystinuria.[citation needed] Haigh was also an ambassador for Make-A-Wish Foundation and established a foundation to help victims of suicide in Brazil following the suicide of his former partner in Brazil.[33]

Haigh established Du Justice, a charity to provide funds to those in Dubai jails that cannot afford legal representation or food. Du Justice has since been merged with the David Haigh Foundation.[34]

During Haigh's leadership Leeds United became the very first Stonewall Diversity Champion in English football, championing gay equality within the club and Football. At the same time former Leeds United and LA Galaxy player Robbie Rogers launched his Beyond It anti-discrimination charity at Leeds United.

In November 2017, in an interview with Daily Mirror newspaper, he revealed that at least 20 footballers had confided in him about being gay. Haigh was open about being gay while in his role at Leeds United, and said to The Mirror that many gay players confided in him at the time as a result.[35] In November 2017, Pink News credited Haigh along with Robbie Rogers and Thomas Hitzlsperger with paving the way for LGBT players and managers in football.[36]

Haigh featured in the February 2020 Panorama documentary.[37] He is identified by Princes Latifa Al Maktoum as her representative in her fight for freedom. Haigh was interviewed[38] on 60 minutes Australia and confirms he has been fighting for the Princesses life and freedom for several years. He founded Detained International in 2019, a British NGO. Detained International[39] has given evidence to United Nations working groups on illegal detentions, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners.


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  2. "BBC Radio Cornwall - David White, 16/07/2013, 30 Lives: David Haigh". BBC. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  3. March 2013, Paul Rogerson04. "David Haigh". Law Society Gazette. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  4. July 11, Alex Newman |; Legalweek, 2013 at 07:03 PM | The original version of this story was published on. "Making Haigh – GFH Capital's general counsel David Haigh on buying Leeds Utd". Law.com International.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  5. "Ex-Leeds United boss David Haigh told to pay GFH £4m after Dubai court ruling". www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  6. "Leeds United: GFH Capital finalise takeover deal". 21 November 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  7. Corless, Liam (21 December 2015). "Former Leeds United chief to spend Christmas in Dubai prison". mirror. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  8. "A good day for Leeds United". Marching on Together. 1 July 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  9. Sport, Telegraph (30 January 2014). "Leeds United takeover deal collapses". Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  10. "Sport Capital sues GFH for £33m over failed Leeds United takeover bid". www.yorkshirepost.co.uk. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  11. "Leeds United takeover bid falls through". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  12. "BBC – Sign in". account.bbc.com. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  13. "UAE Prisoners of Conscience Silently Screaming". Mynewsdesk.
  14. "Are sanctions an effective punishment for human rights abuses? | Inside Story - The Global Herald".
  15. "The Iceman and the Marathon Runner!". Conservatives Abroad.
  16. March 2013, Paul Rogerson04. "David Haigh". Law Gazette.
  17. "Leeds United promotes gay equality through Stonewall's diversity programme". PinkNews. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  18. "Robbie Rogers Beyond It Campaign | Leeds United Now European Supporter | rukkle". rukkle. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  19. "Former Leeds United managing director arrested in Dubai". Financial Times.
  20. David Haigh (23 November 2018). "There's no justice in the UAE – I learned that in a Dubai prison". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  21. Benson, Richard (7 August 2014). "The Fall (And Fall) Of Leeds United". Esquire. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  22. "GFH Capital says arrest of ex-senior exec unrelated to Leeds Utd sale". Arabian Business. 26 May 2014.
  23. "Leeds United's ex-MD held for Dh23.7 million fraud in a Dubai firm". Khaleej Times. 23 May 2014.
  24. Townsend, Sarah (8 July 2018). "GFH to pursue David Haigh's Dubai and London assets in damages enforcement". The National. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  25. Blow, John (6 July 2018). "Ex-Leeds United boss David Haigh told again to pay up over Dubai fraud". Yorkshire Evening Post. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  26. "Former Leeds United managing director to spend Christmas in Dubai jail". The Independent. 21 December 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  27. "British businessman David Haigh acquitted in Dubai over tweet". BBC News. 21 March 2016. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  28. Goncalves, Pedro (5 July 2018). "Dubai court orders ex-Leeds owner Haigh to pay $6 million". International Investment. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  29. Conn, David (25 February 2015). "Former Leeds chief seeks private prosecution over 'deceitful' Dubai arrest". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  30. "Melinda Taylor joins David's legal team | Justice For Haigh". www.justice4haigh.com. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  31. "Ex-Leeds United MD David Haigh was 'suicidal' in Dubai prison". BBC Sport. 14 March 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  32. Ducker, James (3 April 2017). "Exclusive: The former Leeds United director beaten in a Dubai prison now rebuilding his life in Cornwall". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  33. "HAIGH ACCEPTS CHAIRMAN ROLE". www.leedsunited.com. 26 November 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  34. "DU Justice". www.dujustice.com. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  35. West, Andy (25 October 2017). "At least 20 gay footballers in top leagues - but they're afraid to come out". mirror. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  36. "How are we going to effectively tackle homophobia in football?". PinkNews. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  37. "BBC One - Panorama, the Missing Princess".
  38. The Princess diaries: shocking secret videos of Dubai's Princess Latifa | 60 Minutes Australia, retrieved 19 April 2021
  39. "Open Letter from over 60 NGOs and Individuals to the UAE authorities". ICFUAE | International Campaign For Freedom in the UAE. 24 February 2020. Retrieved 19 April 2021.