David is best known as the former Managing Director of leading English Football Club Leeds United; he was the first openly gay managing director of a top-flight English football club. He is the lawyer and crisis manager representing HRH Sheikha Latifa Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. David helped Princess Latifa escape false imprisonment and torture at the hands of her father Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, vice President and Prime Minster of the UAE in March 2018.
The appointment by HRH Princess Latifa followed David surviving a well publicised 22 month ordeal of torture and abuse in Dubai and, as a result, in addition to advising HRH Princes Latifa, he is now a fierce campaigner for human rights and justice in the UAE and the wider Middle East. David is a founding partner in Stirling Haigh, a leading international crisis management and dispute resolution and strategic advisory firm. He is a partner in British based NGO Detained in Dubai (alongside its founder and CEO Radha Stirling, which campaigns for victims of injustice in the UAE) and the co-founder of Detained Abroad.
In 2017 at the United Nations period review of the UAE, he co-founded the Geneva based Association for Victims of Torture in the UAE alongside the Swiss leading human rights charity Al Karama Foundation and other UAE torture victims, from Qatar, Palestine and the United States of America. David is also special advisor to the Arab Organisation of Human Rights and the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE.
David has been involved in many high profile cases of injustice, torture and abuse in which he and his partners have campaigned for the release or protection of those falsely accused and abused. He regularly appears on radio and television across the globe to talk of his experiences and those of his clients’. In 2017 his human rights work became so high profile that the renowned BBC Hardtalk programme dedicated an entire episode to David’s personal fight for justice and that of others that trust him with their fight for freedom.
As one of the most high profile defenders of human rights in the UAE, David often speaks at the United Nations about human rights in the UAE and is regularly called as an expert witness in cases pertaining to human rights in the UAE, Interpol abuse and UAE extraditions requests.
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 and where he helped terminally ill children’s football wishes come true.
Grassroots Football and anti-discrimination in sport
Since leaving Leeds United of which he was a financier until 2016, David joined 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.
During Davis’s leadership Leeds United became the first Stonewall Diversity Champion in English football, championing gay equalitywithin the club and Football. At the same time former Leeds United and LA Galaxy player Robbie Rogerslaunched his Beyond It anti-discrimination charity at Leeds United.
In November 2017, in an interview with The Mirrornewspaper, he revealed that at least 20 footballers had confided in him about being gay. David 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.In November 2017, Pink Newscredited Haigh along with Robbie Rogersand Thomas Hitzlspergerwith paving the way for LGBT players and managers in football.
In late 2017 Haigh teamed up with Diva and OutNewsGlobal publisher Linda Riley to form the ground-breaking #ComeOut2Play. A campaign to help create an environment where gay and bisexual male players feel able to be themselves. www.comeout2play.org
The campaign became the largest Thunderclap campaign ever with over 53 million supporters in 6 weeks. The campaign received the public backing of the English Football league, its CEO Shaun Harvey and its 72 clubs, as well as supporters from across the world of football, media and politics. High profile supporters included, Jeremy Corbyn MP leader of the labour party, Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, Entertainer Katie Price and Broadcaster Piers Morgan.
Haigh was appointed to the Football Association Inclusivity Advisory Group in 2017 to advise on LGBT matters and diversity in Cornish football.
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. Since leaving Leeds United David continued to support Leeds United Ladies as a sponsor. In 2018 he arranged for the Leeds United Ladies football team to travel to Cornwall to play local football team Mousehole AFC, continuing his longstanding support for Leeds United and womens football.
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’s time at the helm ensured the club broke many sporting records including achieving the highest league table positon ever outside the premier league, the largest attendance record outside the premier league and the largest value player signing out side the premier league. 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 and the manger of a $50 million Islamic private equity technology and media investment fund.
David 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. He 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.
DETAINED ABROAD, DETAINED IN DUBAI AND STIRLING HAIGH
David, together with Radha Stirling co-founded, Detained Abroad, which expanded out of Detained in Dubai on its tenth year anniversary. Detained in Dubai (in which David is a partner alongside its founder Radha Stirling) is a British based not for profit that has assisted thousands of victims of injustice in the UAE. It works alongside leading human rights charities including Human Rights Watch, Fair Trials, Amnesty International and Prisoners Abroad. Detained Abroad will continue that work for other countries in the Middle East.
Along with Radha Stirling, David is the Co-Founder and Co-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.
The firm is considered a leading authority on Dubai, the wider UAE and Middle Eastern criminal and civil law and its justice and prison system. Stirling Haigh has been involved in many high-profile cases since its establishment in 2017. The two founding partners have played a key role in the release of thousands of British citizens and other expats from Middle Eastern prison cells though a very successful and unique combination of both legal and advocacy work, and media campaigns.
Stirling Haigh are regularly called on to provide defence evidence to prevent extraditions to the UAE and to remove UAE Interpol red notices.
The firm has several high profile clients, most notably by HRH Sheikha Latifa Bin Rashid Al Maktoum in her complaints of kidnap, torture and false imprisonment against her father Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum the Ruler of Dubai, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE. More on the campaign to free HRH Princess Latifa can be found here www.freelatifa.com
DAVID’S DETENTION IN DUBAI
Stirling Haigh and Detained Abroad were founded after David was himself a victim of human rights abuse, torture, unfair trials and human trafficking in Dubai and suffered his own personal horror story, which he has now turned into a positive by helping thousands of others whilst simultaneously campaigning for change.
In May 2014, David was dishonestly lured to Dubai under false pretences 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 22 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 something as simple as a pen and paper were unavailable to him. 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 he 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 repatriation the same party, 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 support. 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.
In 2017 after giving evidence for two days in the Scottish Courts, David’s account of what happened to him in Dubai was accepted in full by a leading Scottish judge Sheriif Welsh.
“David Haigh struck me as an honest intelligent witness who gave his evidence with calm dignity. … I believed him when he said he was lured to Dubai. I believed his evidence when he indicated that high ranking Emiratis have influence over and access to the police and other aspects of civil society. I have no doubt he was telling the truth about seeing a civilian lawyer who acted for his former employers, in Bur Dubai Police Station in the company of a police officer pointing at him, before being questioned and beaten by police. The clear inference that that civilian lawyer had influence as to how he was badly treated and abused by the police, is irresistible. I fully accept he was repeatedly seriously assaulted by Dubai police officers and Tasered while detained at Bur Dubai Police Station. I accept he was interrogated and forced to sign a document in Arabic the content of which he could not understand. Thereafter, I believed the account he gave of squalid, overcrowded and insanitary detention conditions in Bur Dubai Police Station. I further believe he was sexually assaulted and raped in the car park of that Police station during his detention. I am also satisfied that the evidence he gave about poor consular access and no consular protection while in custody is true. In addition I believed him when he said the police authorities were both actively engaged in institutionalized racism against non-Muslims and non-Emiratis within the detention block and complicit in the racial abuse administered to non-Muslims by local prisoners within the detention centre. Albeit, I held Lord Rowbotham’ s document inadmissible in evidence, if I had to judge between its content based upon a single day’s observation in one detention centre/prison in Dubai and the sustained ordeal endured by David Haigh who was held in 4 different custodial settings in Dubai over almost two years, I would have had little hesitation in preferring the direct tested evidence of David Haigh over the untested and limited narrative in the Lord Rowbotham document.”
As well as establishing Stirling Haigh, David is now focused on developing Detained Abroad and campaigning against homophobia within football. David is a regular media commentator, writes for the Independent newspaper and is a sought after motivational speaker.
David spends 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.