Leeds & Liverpool fans taste two sides of the FA Cup in one Dubai bar

LeedsDW
The Ramee Rose Hotel in Dubai’s partially-finished, concrete-and-glass business district of Tecom might be an unlikely venue in which to sample the magic of the FA Cup. But on Sunday, it served up both sides of football’s oldest knockout competition.

The Goodfellas Sports Bar, located on the Mezzanine Level of the four-star hotel, is home to the official Dubai supporters clubs of both Leeds United and Liverpool, who played in contrasting 4th Round ties on an evening of considerable cup drama.

From 6pm, in front of the big screen by the main entrance, 30 or so supporters of Dubai-owned Championship club Leeds cheered their team’s combative 2-1 victory over Premier League Tottenham Hotspur – earning a 5th Round tie against league champions Manchester City.

Then, from 8pm, 40-plus devotees of Liverpool looked on in muted horror from the other end of the bar as Brendan Rodgers’ star-studded line-up was dumped out of the competition by League One Oldham Athletic. Cup romance was, in this part of the world at least, distinctly half-full.

“I got there with 30 minutes of the Leeds game left,” says Neil Briody, communications officer of the Dubai Reds. “I was actually pretty surprised how much noise the Leeds fans were making. I didn’t realise there were that many in Dubai – this is the first time we’ve played on the same day, so we’ve never actually run into each other before.

“We were quite happy they were beating Spurs, and we even joined in their celebrations at the final whistle. Sadly, a few of their boys stayed on to watch us and were quickly cheering for Oldham… so, on reflection, I kind of wish Tottenham had won now!”

One of the delighted Leeds fans was Dan Galley, secretary of the Dubai Whites, who have been calling Goodfellas home from the minute it opened. The original bar manager was himself a Leeds fan and was quick to put framed Leeds shirts and badges on the wall and provide a home from home for any exiled White.

“We came with the hope of a draw at best,” says Dan. “Get a replay, earn a few more quid, show some fight. But we really deserved the win and showed real grit and determination, and made it an unpleasant afternoon for the Spurs players. We’re not as good technically, obviously, but we showed passion – and, as Leeds fans, that’s all we want from the team right now.”

Galley was also pleased Leeds fans came out in force to show their Liverpool counterparts there is another club in the area.

“It would be great if our games clashed a bit more, to be honest,” he says. “We enjoyed the banter. And I’m really glad we showed that we are a genuinely big club with a very large fan-base.

“I really enjoyed the atmosphere down there. We’ve not had that too often recently.”

Rival claims

As a Championship club, though, Leeds games are only televised a dozen or so times a season, meaning Liverpool fans beat a more regular path to Goodfellas and, as a result, have staked their own claim on the venue. Despite defeat on Sunday, they’ll be back on Wednesday night for the Arsenal game and, after that, a clash against Manchester City over the weekend.

“We’ve had some of our best nights in Goodfellas,” says Neil Briody. “We’ve had as many as 120 people down there for some of the bigger games. As an expat, it’s as close as we can get to recreating a match atmosphere.

“We acknowledge this was a Leeds pub first, but as we never clash, it’s fair to say it’s ours too now.”

For Leeds, the only thing missing from a memorable evening was a representative of the new owners, GFH Capital, based in the Dubai International Financial Centre.

“We were hoping David Haigh would come down,” Galley says. “It would have been the ideal opportunity to meet some fans away from the spotlight. And, after that result, it would also have been good for him to see what this club means to a lot of people.”

His next chance might well be the FA Cup 5th Round, on February 17th. Although it’s fair to assume he might find a ticket at the Etihad Stadium for that one.

Leeds United fans in Dubai hope GFH can be a local saviour

“Nothing comes easy” is a mantra fans of most clubs would like to adopt as their own. But there is something about Leeds United FC that suggests they have to pay a singularly high price for whatever success comes their way.

The glory days of Don Revie were marked as much by the pain of near misses as the joy of success, while the vintage served up by Howard Wilkinson’s side in the early 1990s could only be sipped after eight traumatic years in the second division.

Now, having endured nearly eight years of austerity under Ken Bates, the price paid for the excesses of the Ridsdale era at the turn of the millennium, the promise of new investment has tortured fans since June. And, four months since contact was first initiated, Dubai-based investment bank GFH Capital appear no nearer to depositing the required £50 million into the owner’s Monaco bank account.

For the Dubai Whites, the 100-plus-member supporters club in the United Arab Emirates, the prospect of a Gulf takeover is certainly appealing but, with few signs that a deal will be concluded any time soon, optimism is starting to fade – not least as questions have emerged about the financial viability of the banks’s parent, Gulf Finance House of Bahrain.

“In this part of the world there are a lot of people pretending to be wealthier than they are – many of them leveraged to the hilt,” says Dubai Whites vice-chairman Simon Green. “[GFH’s plan] is similar to the one Ridsdale used: spend heavily up front, and hope the team delivers. This is manageable if you have access to significant cash reserves, but we’ve seen how it works if you overstretch with borrowing.

“But I think GFH’s business model is simple; to make Leeds a more valuable asset, they need promotion to the Premier League. To get to the Premier League they understand that they need to first invest in players… Leeds has the infrastructure, history and support to be a top-six Premier League team.”

“There appears little doubt GFH want us promoted sooner rather than later,” echoes Pete Mackewicz. “GFH, or individuals within it, have the club at heart but are also keen to profit from the takeover… and a push to the top of the Championship will require additional on-field resources.”

Lee Cousens, though, is more cautious, reflecting a growing unease about the means and the motives of the potential new owners. “The reports do seem to indicate a lack of funds,” he says, “thus leading to us struggling in the transfer market again. A club the size of ours, and with a fan base like ours, deserves better.

“I agree Bates needs to go, but will it be a case of ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’ with GFH?”
 

Funding fun

GFH’s ability to finance this deal is certainly coming under increasing scrutiny, notably in a damning article from Reuters that cited heavy losses and a number of incomplete development projects. But most of the Dubai Whites assume that the necessary funds are already in place. Pete Mackewicz even has “a sneaking suspicion that there is one (or several) big hitting backers” lining up behind the bid.

That said, the drip-feeding of information, much of it negative, has impacted expectations. Initial hopes of a second Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the man who bankrolled Manchester City’s title triumph last season, have now been reduced to the acceptance of anyone who can hasten the departure of the ever-unpopular Bates.

“I think it’s fair to say that no Leeds fan wants to see the club spend beyond its means and end up back in League One or in Portsmouth’s situation,” says Dan Galley, secretary of the Dubai Whites. “Nor do I think we really want a billionaire where the sense of achievement could be overshadowed. What we want is an owner who matches our ambitions as fans and invests an adequate percentage of the club’s turnover into the team.”

It’s perhaps little surprise, then, that many of the fans would actually be happy for other potential investors to come forward – even if that meant extending an already protracted process.

“As supporters and stakeholders, we should want what is the best for the long term future of our club,” Galley says. “Should another investor be interested who has the power and knowledge to serve our club better then I think they should be given the opportunity to stake a claim, even if it delayed the process.”
 

Leeds…. United?

It’s clear, though, that a further three, four or even 12 months of negotiations is an unpalatable prospect, especially with the accompanying information black hole – thanks to confidentiality clauses – and endless social media in-fighting among fans.

GFH Capital and their Leeds-born deputy chairman David Haigh began this process as saviours. While the Dubai Whites, the fans on their doorstep, remain cautiously optimistic of the new dawn they could usher in, it seems some of the goodwill has already been squandered.

Ultimately, as Lee Cousens says, they support a football team, not a boardroom.

“It’s the results on the pitch that count to most fans,” he says. “When we win, which we seem to have done a bit this season, we quickly forget the takeover news. If the deal collapses tomorrow and Bates is chairman for another seven years, we’ll still be Leeds United. And he can’t take that away from us.”
 

The Dubai Whites gather for live games in the Goodfellas pub in the Ramee Rose Hotel, Tecom, Dubai. For more information, contact: Dubaiwhites@gmail.com

Leeds’ Dubai fans greet takeover with ‘cautious optimism’

Leeds United’s new owners, GFH Capital, have been warned that actions speak louder than words as they begin the task of restoring the club to its past glories.

After eight months of protracted negotiations the Dubai-based investment bank were handed the keys to Elland Road on Friday after finally sealing a £52million takeover of the Championship club.

GFH Capital debuty CEO, David Haigh, and director, Salem Patel – both of whom have joined the Leeds board – spoke of their ambition of guiding the club back to the top-tier of English football for the first time since 2004.

After eight years of austerity under the controversial custodianship of Ken Bates, it was music to the ears of Leeds’ long suffering fans who have seen their club left behind by the Premier League gravy train.

“The dream is the Premier League. That is where we want to take the club,” said Patel. “It will take investment; we are ready to make that investment. We won’t spend crazy money, but we will make the investment sustainable and make the club successful.”

The Dubai Whites, the 100-plus-member supporters club in the UAE, have been interested observers throughout the whole takeover saga, not least because of the link to this particular region.

“Personally and as a supporters club we are pleased to have a special connection with the club,” the supporters’ club secretary Dan Galley told Sport360°.”I just hope they improve on the record of previous Dubai-based football club owners!

“On the whole, though, I’m pleased to see new owners in charge of the club and finally see the fans unite once again, hopefully for the long-term.”

But while Galley, like the majority of other fans, are excited by what Haigh – a lifelong Leeds supporter – described as a “new era” for the club – he has sounded a note of caution.

Mindful of the broken promises of past regimes, Galley believes the January transfer window will give fans a clearer indication as to the new owners true intentions and ambitions.

“I think there is an element of relief it’s finally completed and we can focus on the football again,” added Galley.

“They have set their stall out well with opening the communication channels with the fans, but i think we should look to the future with cautious optimism. Actions speak louder than words as we found out with Ken Bates, they must act on what they tell us.

“January will tell us a lot about their ambition and I think this needs to match the supporters to keep the positive attitude.”

While there may not be “crazy money” at his disposal, Leeds boss Neil Warnock has been promised the necessary funds as he looks to add six new faces to his squad in the January transfer window.

“We shall support Neil as is required. He has stated what he wants in terms of strengthening the squad. We shall try our best to make sure he gets it,” said Patel, echoing the sentiments made by fellow director Hisham al-Rayes last month.

Permanent deals for on-loan quartet Alan Tate, Michael Tonge, Ryan Hall and Jerome Thomas are high on the agenda, while a new striker is also a top priority.

Patel added: “Tonge, Tate and Thomas have already become key players for us, and we hope to keep them. But we have a good squad with players coming back from injury now.”

– The Dubai Whites gather for live games in the Goodfellas pub in the Ramee Rose Hotel, Tecom, Dubai. For more information, contact: Dubaiwhites@gmail.com.

 

Former Managing Director and One Time Dubai White Released from Dubai Prison.

The former CEO of Leeds United has been acquitted of criminal charges relating to a tweet sent on his behalf while he was held in a Dubai prison.

David Haigh has been imprisoned in the UAE since May 2014 after being convicted of fraud and was just 24 hours from his release in November last year when he was accused of slander.

Mr Haigh has said he now hopes to be reunited with his family for Easter after spending nearly two years in custody in Dubai.

David Haigh – ex-CEO of Leeds United – has been acquitted over charges related to a tweet sent on his behalf, and now hopes to be able to return to the UK after two years in a Dubai prison

Mr Haigh was first arrested in Dubai in May 2014, after former Leeds United owners GFH Capital accused him of defrauding the company of £3million.

He was then held in prisoned for 14 months without charge before a Sharia court found him guilty and sentenced him to two years in August 2015

Unable to pay for legal representation, Haigh was sentenced after three brief court hearings in Arabic – totalling 35 minutes – and was given no right to address a single judge or call witnesses.

As he had already served a majority of his sentence, he was due to be released in November, but just 24 hours before his November release date GFH made a new a complaint against Haigh.

He was charged with a further offence of slander in relation to comments made on his Twitter account, which has been run on his behalf by a third party while he is in jail.

Haigh has been imprisoned in the UAE since May 2014 after being convicted of fraud and was just 24 hours from his release in November last year when he was accused of slander

Haigh has maintained his innocence in both cases, and was acquitted on Monday.