KEIGHLEY Cougars are ‘on the brink’ according to former head coach Craig Lingard after another deadline to receive unpaid wages looks set to pass.

Cougars players and staff are owed money, which includes wages and bonuses, going back to August.

Shane Spencer, a representative from Cougars' major shareholder, Austria Holdings, met with RFL chiefs last Friday when the sport's governing body were reassured wages would be paid by the end of today.

But Keighley club employees are understood to still be awaiting these payments.

The Keighley News also understands Cougars' general manager Steve Gill resigned in protest at the unpaid wages, but was back at the club today in an attempt to resolve the situation.

Craig Lingard, 41, who himself has not been paid for the last five-and-a-half months, resigned earlier this month in protest at the situation.

He had considered returning if the situation was resolved but he said: "This leaves the club on the brink.

"It's been massively frustrating, it's just ridiculous. I would just prefer people to be honest.

"This is it, there is no going back now.

"I can't see any going back for the club now. More players will leave and go and join other clubs. You can't say anything to them for doing it.

"We have been let down so many times by the club.

"I'm not bothered about me, I want the players to get sorted.

"This situation has been dragging on and on. It is all up in the air. It's a strange one.

"It is last chance saloon for everything. The players have been let down."

A WhatsApp message group has been set up featuring Cougars players and staff, who were swapping messages and hoping, so far in vain, for positive news.

Ritchie Hawkyard, 32, who joined League One rivals Oldham Roughyeds from Cougars earlier this month, says he is still owed around £2,000 by his former club for two months’ wages and win-loss bonuses.

Hawkyard confirmed to the Keighley News at 8pm on Tuesday that no wages had come through.

That was having earlier tweeted today: “Well 3.30pm and still no money from @Cougarmania, I hope they can come round to my house Christmas day and explain to my kids why they've got no Christmas presents, thank you Shane Spencer so much for trying to do what was best and for being loyal, all to be treated like this.”

An RFL spokesman confirmed last Friday's meeting took place and added that the governing body had launched an investigation into the ownership of the club.

He added: "The RFL is concerned about and monitoring the situation at Keighley.  
"We have been given assurances that the players will be paid this week. If that does not happen, that would clearly be another cause for serious concern.
"The club remains in special measures and therefore not permitted to contact or register any players with the RFL. We are also seeking clarity over its governance."

There remains uncertainty about the running of Austria Holdings.

According to Companies House, Spencer’s role as a director of the company was terminated on September 6 this year. He was reappointed on October 29 but his position of director was again terminated on November 5.

The document also states that James Weston was appointed as a director of Austria Holdings on September 6 and then as a person with significant control of the company six days later. But then Mr Weston’s position as director ended on October 26.

Christopher Scholes was also appointed as a director of Austria Holdings on October 29.

The current crisis is the latest blow for Cougars during a year of turmoil.

Austria Holdings, an off-shore investment company/portfolio, took over in July after former chairman Gary Fawcett departed.

This followed news Cougars had just avoided going out of business after players' contracts had been met, the club's bank balance standing at just £34.23, and were looking to raise £45,000 to see them through to the rest of the season.

Hopes were high of brighter future with the appointment of former Castleford chief Gill as general manager, while work has been ongoing to refurbish the club's supporters bar.

But long-serving directors Simon Harrison and Neil Cullen resigned as directors last month, as did club ambassador Garry Schofield.

Spencer was contacted for a response but did not wish to comment.