Cougarmania returns – but Keighley to start season with 12 point deduction

The uncertainty over the future of Keighley Cougars has been resolved, but the club will start the new Betfred League 1 season with a 12-point deduction.

The RFL board has approved the transfer of membership of the club to a new consortium following a turbulent winter.

Mick O’Neill has returned to Cougar Park as chairman and has been joined by Mike Smith and Tim Wood, who were also involved in the transformation of the club in the early 1990s.

Ralph Rimmer, the RFL Chief Executive, said: “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.”

Also in the consortium is O’Neill’s son Ryan, his husband Kaue Garcia and Mike Loughtman – with ownership split evenly and 10% of the shares in the new company given to the supporters club in recognition of their loyalty.

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.

“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.”

Keighley start the League 1 season with a trip to Whitehaven on Sunday February 17.

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