Keighley Cougars owners hits back at criticism and explain their own plan to replace IMG’s proposals

THERE has been one constant throughout the new IMG era in rugby league and that is the opposition from Keighley Cougars.

Owners Ryan O’Neill and Kaue Garcia have been vociferous in their opposition to what they call “micro-grading by spreadsheet.”

But, dissenting opinion to IMG’s plans have not been mainstream and Keighley’s stance has certainly rubbed a few people up the wrong way.

That said, debate is healthy and a number of points raised by the Cougars have been raised in the media – and now Garcia and O’Neill have hit back against criticism and explained what plan they would have come up with in place of those proposals set forward by IMG.

“This is another reincarnation of the previous failures. The launch of Super League in 1995, and the subsequent failures of restructure including licensing,” Garcia and O’Neill told League Express.

“There is another way to sort this sport out: Marketing, marketing, marketing. It is a very simple solution to showcase the sport- ringfence some Sky money to fund an A Grade marketing department, rather than simply donate the majority to elite clubs.

“This will improve crowds, yet IMG remains focused on preserving the elites, with no explanation on how that will attract more fans and more broadcast revenue.

“Side issues on which they focus on catchment area, LED lights, etc. is designed to permanently lock-out town clubs on unachievable criteria.”

O’Neill and Garcia had previously told League Express: “Keighley Cougars thought that after extensive consultation and complaints from a wide number of clubs, the RFL in conjunction with IMG would take the objections into account and realise that the level of competition amongst clubs should remain on the field, which hasn’t been addressed since only 25% of points are given by the performance on field,” Garcia and O’Neill said in a joint statement to League Express.

“The new proposals still doesn’t change the fact that this remain overwhelmingly sport by spreadsheet. Minimum standards, absolutely yes, micro-grading by spreadsheet, no.

“There is no point winning the One Million Pound Game any longer, as you have to worry about LED screens, etc.

“This remains anti-sport and it is sad that they have now masqueraded the ‘Catchment Area Pillar’ under a new name ‘Community’ but will still give 1.5 points to where clubs are located, which is totally out of our hands and will penalise clubs that have been pivotal to the success of this sport, while rewarding so called expansion areas. Rather than scrapping this, they have turned a blind eye.”