David Haigh is an entrepreneur, sports financier, lawyer and philanthropist.
He is the CEO and founder of the Sport Capital Group, established to fund the future of sport in the UK and beyond. David survived a well publicised 22 month ordeal in Dubai and, as a result, is now a fierce campaigner for human rights and justice in the UAE. David is a founding partner in Stirling Haigh, a renowned civil and criminal law advisory, and Du Justice, which aides those who are facing injustice in the UAE.
David has been involved in many high profile cases in which he and his partners have campaigned for the release or protection of those falsely accused. He recently spoke at The United Nations about human rights in the UAE and is expected to do so again in the future. David is often called as an expert witness in cases pertaining to human rights in the UAE.
David was the Managing Director of leading English football club Leeds United, Chairman of Leeds United Ladies Football Club, managing director of Radio Yorkshire and Leeds United TV, and an Ambassador for Make a Wish Foundation, for whom he trekked across the Arctic Circle to raise funds in 2013. David was the first openly gay Managing Director of a major football club and hopes to help lead the way for footballers and football club staff to feel comfortable “coming out” on the world stage.
Grassroots and anti-discrimination in sport
David was recently invited to join the board of his local team, Penzance AFC, who recognised that his love for grass roots football could help make the football club a bigger part of the community. He has been on and advised the board since 2016, and hopes to continue to make deep and long lasting changes at grass roots level.
During his time at Leeds United, David introduced initiatives such as ‘Taking it to the Kids’ where primary school children in Leeds were given the chance to study football and health education courtesy of the club’s charitable trust, the Leeds United Foundation. He put the club at the forefront of the Anti-Homophobia and Anti – Discrimination in Sport and Football Campaign by partnering with Stonewall Diversity Champions and Robbie Rogers’ ‘Beyond It’. He brought the Leeds United Ladies football team back into the club and saw the ladies playing at Elland Road. In addition to his financial and legal expertise, David brought a wealth of business experience to the club. In his role as Managing Director he led a campaign for the club to re-engage with its fans, and his excellent relations with supporters and different supporter groups was a feature of his tenure. David led a consortium to acquire in the club in 2013.
Prior to his time at Leeds, David was Deputy CEO and General Counsel of a Dubai-based Islamic investment bank, operating from the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). David swapped the Dubai sunshine for Yorkshire when he left Dubai to focus fully on his role in Leeds in 2012.
Following more than six months of negotiations, the Dubai takeover of Leeds United was completed in December 2012. This represented something of a return home for David, who was born into a third generation Leeds family from Beeston and watched the club as a child.
David arrived in Leeds with more than 15 years of international experience in investment banking, private equity and venture capital and specialist experience in legal, regulatory and operational affairs.
He has been nominated for numerous leading legal industry awards including ‘General Counsel of the Year’ both in the Middle East and in the UK.
Before joining the Islamic investment bank, David worked in-house at two of the world’s largest financial institutions, Barclays Wealth and Bank of New York Mellon and practiced law at two of the world’s leading international law firms, DLA Piper and Akin Gump. He has held directorships in several start-ups, leading regional technology companies and Islamic financial institutions.
David was also a mentor for Seed Start-up, a Dubai based start-up accelerator and seed stage venture capital fund ranked amongst the Middle East’s top 10 start-up accelerators.
DU JUSTICE & DAVID’S DETENTION IN DUBAI
David co-founded Du Justice, a non-profit organisation established to work alongside leading human rights charities including Human Rights Watch, Fair Trials, and Prisoners Abroad. Du Justice is a non-profit organisation established to help those accused of criminal offences in Dubai receive a fair trial in line with international standards and to protect their most basic human rights.
Du Justice aims to highlight and prevent cases of torture, abuse, sexual abuse, mistreatment of suspects and prisoners, corruption, bribery, nepotism. Du Justice seeks to ensure all accused in Dubai have the basic human right of receiving a fair trial where they are legally represented and have access to qualified translators. Du Justice will work with the Dubai authorities including the Dubai Police, Dubai Public Prosecution, Dubai Courts and DIFC Courts to highlight and stamp out injustice and breaches of human rights.
Du Justice was founded after David was himself a victim of human rights abuse and human trafficking in Dubai and suffered his own personal horror story.
In May 2014, David was dishonestly lured to Dubai under false pretenses by his former employers and business partners – a frightening case of human trafficking for exploitation. Once he landed in Dubai he was detained, without being charged, for 18 months in appalling conditions. David was deprived of many of his basic human rights. He was prevented from accessing his money to pay for lawyers. He was denied access to translators, food and medication, even a pen and paper were often denied. At a trial, conducted in Arabic (meaning he was unable to understand what was happening) David was found guilty. During the trial he was not permitted to speak nor was her allowed to cross examine his accusers or to see any of the purported evidence against him. At times David was not even permitted to attend his own court case. David had appointed leading international accountancy firm PWC, who concluded in a report sent to the Dubai courts that there was no evidence of fraud by David and that the allegations should be withdrawn. The report was ignored by the Dubai Court.
Ten days after the conviction, David thought there was a positive turn of events. David had received a Royal pardon and was due to fly home. However, just a few days before his flight home, the same complainant, his former employers and their CEO, filed a false Twitter slander charge against David and almost 6 months later David was still detained in a squalid Dubai jail where he was again tortured, beaten, sexually abused and denied legal representation and translation. David was finally acquitted in March 2016, he was then further acquitted on appeal in May 2016. Two years of such a hell is clearly unacceptable, and now David works tirelessly with Du Justice and other leading charities to try and ensure that no-one else suffers as horrifically as he did.
David’s case was supported by leading charity Human Rights Watch who called for David’s immediate release and the charges to be dropped in 2016 in this press release. He was also supported by Prisoners Abroad, Detained in Dubai, International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE and countless leading politicians and lawyers such as Alun Jones QC of Great James Street Chambers.
As well as supporting Du Justice, David is now focused on developing Sport Capital, sports finance, angel and seed investing, motivational speaking and his philanthropic activities. David spends much of his spare time with his family, recovering from his ordeal, practising yoga and surfing in his beloved Cornwall where he is putting the finishing touches to his Dubai prison diaries.