By Duncan Castles
26 November 2013
The managing director of Leeds United, David Haigh, hopes to be named as Tory party candidate for Northampton South at the 2015 General Election, his spokesman has confirmed.
The development will raise questions from some Leeds fans over the medium-term intentions of Haigh at Elland Road, and over the involvement of Dubai-based GFH Capital (GFHC), where Haigh is deputy chief executive. GFHC currently claim to own or control the majority of Leeds shares.
Haigh’s spokesman says that if selected Haigh intends to combine his responsibilities for “the day-to-day running of the club” with his political commitments as a prospective Member of Parliament.
It is not clear whether Haigh sees running Leeds as a part-time job, or being an MP as being a part-time job, or both; or whether he believes he can hold down two full-time jobs.
According to one Tory source, Haigh is the favourite to succeed Brian Binley, who held the bell-weather seat with a majority of 6,004 in 2010 but is standing down following health problems.
Haigh, 36, trained as a lawyer and fronted GFHC’s drawn-out takeover of Leeds last year for its Bahraini-based parent company, Gulf Finance House bank.
GFHC’s stewardship of Leeds United has been dogged with doubts over the bank’s finances and their long-term commitment to the club, with at least one potential investor invited to do due diligence on the sale of its shares.
When GFHC completed their takeover in December last year, Haigh and his GFHC colleague Salem Patel were interviewed by the BBC about their company’s intentions – and resources. A video of that interview is available here.
Patel says in that video: “We wouldn’t have bought this club if we didn’t have the money in place to make this club successful. And it’s as simple as that.”
In fact, Leeds have spent most of the year looking for partner investors. It is not clear what Patel meant when he said GFHC had “the money in place.”
Other seemingly positive post-takeover initiatives have yet to come to fruition. Club ‘sources’ are understood to have been involved in a story detailing a potential tie-up with Red Bull, and about a proposed buy-back of Elland Road. Neither has taken place, yet.
External links to those stories: Leeds United in talks over megabucks link-up with drinks giant EXCLUSIVE
Leeds ‘close to buying back the club’s Elland Road ground
GFHC’s reign at Leeds has polarised fans’ opinions. Many remain grateful that GFHC’s involvement apparently ended the era of Ken Bates’ ownership. Others have questioned GFHC’s experience, transparency and decision making.
Haigh’s forthright support of manager Neil Warnock upon the December 2012 takeover – “Neil is our man and one of the reasons we decided to buy this club in the first place. The guy is a legend in English football and his position was a requirement of the contract,” Haigh said – backfired to the extent that Warnock was sacked five months later as relegation threatened.
Haigh says he has been a Leeds supporter since childhood yet had never mentioned the club on a Twitter account he employed to garner public support for the takeover before the summer of 2012. An earlier comment celebrating Manchester United’s success led to queries as to whether he actually supported Leeds’ infamous rivals.
Man United 5 wins 5 matches
— David Haigh (@haighdavid) September 18, 2011
Haigh’s current personal website was launched under the guidance of “corporate, political and personal storyteller” Peter Botting, a political fixer who claims to have trained “over 100 of the 306 current Conservative MPs”. Botting’s website is here and his Tory party candidate selection record is here.
Haigh’s website used to include a list of his “greatest leeds games.” That section no longer exists. One of the games featured was his first after the takeover; the other three feature prominently on the official club website’s own brief collection of such matches.
Asked if Haigh had used Leeds United to further his political ambitions, a spokesman for GFH Capital said: “That is a completely ludicrous question to which the answer is plainly no.
“David is a hands-on managing director who has been committed to the club for the last year. He will continue to be so. David has only the best interests of the club at heart.”
In 2006, Haigh stood unsuccessfully for the Conservatives in elections to London’s Lambeth Borough Council. He polled 5 percent of the vote in the Oval Ward, finishing ninth behind the successful Liberal Democrat candidate.
UPDATE at 4.50pm on 26 November: A media report from BBC Leeds suggested that a recently established company Sport Capital Limited, set up by David Haigh, had injected £1m into Leeds. That company’s registration document is publicly available at Companies House and shows the company registered at a Hastings address used by Peter Botting; and also there are two shares in the company, one ‘based’ in the BVI and the second with Haigh at a London address.
Follow Duncan Castles on Twitter