Former Keighley Cougars Chairman Mick O’Neill, is spearheading a consortium to save the club.
O’Neill has teamed back up with his co-director from the heydays of ‘Cougarmania’, Mike Smith, and company secretary Tim Wood, along with supporters and members who remained solidly
behind the club.
O’Neill and Smith ran the club in the 1990s, winning two Championships, promotion to the top-flight (which was thwarted at the time Super League was created), and attracting record crowds to their Cougar Park stadium.
The club has been plunged into turmoil since the takeover by the current owner, Austria Holding, with allegations that bills and wages to players and staff have been unpaid or partly unpaid since the takeover in the summer of 2018.
“After the takeover, a shelf company called Austria Holdings Ltd was registered at Companies House, and since then the ownership and legal control of that company has passed to a number of individuals who do not appear to have any connection to the club,” said O’Neill in a press release issued by the putative new directors.
“It is understood from media statements, that the company is controlled by Shane Spencer, who has a legacy of insolvent companies, and has been deemed an unfit and improper person by the RFL. Only recently in the House of Commons, the Keighley MP John Grogan called for Austria Holdings Ltd to relinquish control, and informed MP’s that Shane Spencer was being declared bankrupt by HM Court Service on the 4th January 2019.”
Speaking of the current turmoil at Cougar Park, Mick O’Neill questioned the motives and intentions of
Austria Holdings Ltd, and pointed to the company being technically insolvent.
“Shane Spencer came to Keighley offering funds to move the club forward, build the squad, and promised the fans a bright future. Since then he hasn’t paid the bills, he’s left hard working players and staff without pay, and he appears to be asset stripping the club for his own benefit. The whole time, doing this through various ‘front’ directors and shareholders of his company. I call on him to finally do the right thing, close down his company, and pass the club back to people who have a heart for the club and want to move it forward. For the supporters, the people of Keighley, and the Rugby League family.”
The proposed board would include a nominated director from the supporters’ club and the community.
O’Neill announced that he and his colleagues have funding in place to move the club forward, and that a share allocation would be given to the fans to ensure that the Cougars would always remain front and central a part of Keighley.