Keighley saved as old Cougarmania consortium return

Keighley Cougars have been saved after the RFL approved the transfer of membership to a new consortium.

The future of the club had been in serious jeopardy for a number of months following severe financial issues.

But the RFL have confirmed a new consortium, headed by Mick O’Neill, who was at the club during the Cougarmania revolution in the 1990s, will take the club forward.

As a result, the League 1 side has been taken out of special measures and are now free to sign players.

However, the club will start to campaign with a 12-point deduction following the change of membership.

Chairman O’Neill will be joined by Mike Smith and Tim Wood, who were also involved during the glory days of Cougarmania, 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.

“Being back in control after 20 years means so much to me personally and my family,” O’Neill said.

“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.

Ralph Rimmer, the RFL Chief Executive, added: “We hope the news, securing the future of a club which was formed in 1876 and joined the Northern Union in 1900, will be welcomed throughout the game – and especially among the other clubs in Betfred League One.

“There’s been an enormous amount of work behind the scenes led by Karen Moorhouse and Alan Darfi, and I’d like to thank her and the rest of our team at the RFL – as well as the new owners for recognising that.”