1. ITV Report

Keighley Cougars have been saved

The Rugby Football League Board has approved the transfer of membership of Keighley Cougars to a new consortium.

The club had been placed in special measures under their previous ownership, but will now be free to sign players ahead of the start of the Betfred League One 2019 season.

Credit: ITV

As a result of the recent circumstances surrounding the club and this transfer of membership, the new owners have accepted that they should start the 2019 season with a 12-point deduction.

In addition to competing in the Betfred League One, the Cougars will also enter the Coral Challenge Cup and the new 1895 Cup.

The club will continue to play at Cougar Park.

Mick O’Neill has returned as Keighley Cougars chairman as the head of a consortium hoping to bring the golden days of Cougarmania back to the club.

O’Neill has been joined by Mike Smith and Tim Wood, who were also involved in the transformation of the club in the early 1990s, and also by his son Ryan and his husband Kaue Garcia, who run a children’s technology company in London.

Mike Loughtman, a Keighley expat who currently resides in Sydney, completes the consortium, with ownership split evenly, and a voluntarily allocation of 10% of the shares in the new company has been given to the supporters club in recognition of their loyalty.

The news was confirmed at a supporters meeting at Keighley Cricket Club tonight (Thursday), and O’Neill said:

Being back in control after 20 years means so much to me personally and my family. The town desperately needs a successful RL club and we intend to make that happen.

“All the directors feel the same. Besides the old Cougar directors we welcome a dynamic Brazilian and my son who is an international business entrepreneur. We will also be joined by a supporters representative. Gary Murgatroyd is also in the team who will also act as General Manager.

“We are all looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead and will be working hard to bring a smile back to Cougars and the game in general.

“We have to thank the RFL for the enormous support they have given us during negotiations with the previous owner and accepting our application to run the club at the end of a very difficult period for all concerned.

“We know that the 12 points deduction that has had to be imposed on us by the RFL will make it more difficult to achieve promotion this season but we are focused on getting into the play-offs and once there anything can happen.

“I must pay a big respect to our coach Craig Lingard who has done a magnificent job in putting a team together under very difficult circumstances for the coming season. We are looking forward to working with him and giving him all the support he deserves to achieve our aim.

“Finally to all the fans, thank you for standing by the club, now is the time to dust off your old Cougar shirts and get behind us. Remember the great times we all enjoyed together. We intend to bring them back so we need your support. We had a regular 5,000+ at every game, we were a big family who shared in the ups and downs. So please get behind us because we intend to do it all again. Let's bring our Cougar family back together to get the Cougars back where they belong. There could be exciting times ahead.”

– Mick O’Neill
  • The Cougars begin their Betfred League One campaign at Whitehaven on Sunday February 17 – with their first home game following against Coventry Bears on March 3.