Lawkholmers to Cougars - A Rugby League History

2018–present: Takeovers

In July 2018 chairman Gary Fawcett stood down and the club was acquired by Austria Holdings. The next day Steve Gill, former chief executive of Castleford Tigers, was appointed as general manager of the club. In November 2018 the players were in dispute with the owners regarding unpaid wages. Austria Holdings ceded control of the club in December 2018 and Steve Gill left the club.

In January 2019 the club was purchased a consortium led by former owner Mick O’Neill. The purchase by O’Neill, Cougarmania partner Mike Smith, O’Neill’s son Ryan and his husband Kaue Garcia enabled the club to be taken out of special measures and to compete in the 2019 League 1 season but with a 12 point penalty deduction.

The Cougars decided to part company with head coach Craig Lingard midway through the 2019 season, replacing Craig shortly after with Rhys Lovegrove supported by returning ex-head coach Phil Larder. Larder’s return was short lived as he left the club within a few weeks of his return for ‘personal reasons’.

During the season the Cougars hosted what is believed to be the first Gay Pride event in rugby league. David Connor, the RFL lead for diversity and equality, praised the club stating: “Rugby League has been breaking down social barriers for more than a hundred years and this is another important milestone. We pride ourselves on genuinely being a sport for all and Keighley are to be congratulated for actively demonstrating the inclusivity of our game”.

The Cougars finished the 2019 season in 10th place with five points; despite this lowly finish the club was named RFL League 1 club of the year at the RFL annual awards ceremony in September 2019.