A CONSORTIUM involving key figures of the Cougarmania era have launched a bid to take over crisis club Keighley Cougars.

Former Cougars chairman Mick O’Neill is spearheading a consortium to save the historic rugby league club.

O’Neill has teamed up with his co-director from the heydays of Cougarmania, Mike Smith, and company secretary Tim Wood, along with supporters and members.

O’Neill and Smith ran the club in the 1990s, winning two championships, promotion to the top flight, and attracting record crowds to Cougar Park.

The club has been plunged into turmoil since the takeover by an apparent overseas investment company, Austria Holdings.

After last summer's takeover, a company called Austria Holdings Ltd was registered at Companies House, and since then the ownership and legal control of that company has passed to a number of individuals who do not appear to have any connection to the club.

O’Neill said: "Shane Spencer came to Keighley offering funds to move the club forward, build the squad, and promised the fans a bright future. Since then he hasn’t paid the bills, he’s left hard working players and staff without pay.

"I call on him to finally do the right thing, close down his company, and pass the club back to people who have a heart for the club and want to move it forward. For the supporters, the people of Keighley, and the rugby league family."

The proposed board would include a nominated director from the supporter’s club and the community.

Officials associated with the consortium hope their bid, which includes a detailed three-year business plan for the club, will help persuade the sport's governing body, the Rugby Football League (RFL) they are the group to lead the club's future.

It is understood, if successful, O'Neill would return to Keighley from his base in Australia to run the club on a daily basis.

If they can take over the consortium would still face a race against time to get Cougars ready for the forthcoming campaign.

Cougars face a decisive day in their immediate future tomorrow as a deadline, imposed by the RFL, on trialist contracts for a training squad of 17 players expires. These 28-day-long contracts enabled Cougars to get their pre-season under way before Christmas but if they remain in special measures they will not be able to sign players on permanent deals.

Cougars kick off their Betfred League One season at Whitehaven on February 17, with their first game at Cougars Park scheduled to be against Coventry Bears on March 3.

It has been a turbulent pre-season for Cougars which has included players and staff, past and present, not being paid for two months, head coach Craig Lingard resigning then returning and general manager Steve Gill quitting before he took over in the same role at Championship side Featherstone Rovers.