English Championship rugby league club Keighley Cougars has submitted a planning application for redevelopment of its Cougar Park stadium, amid ambitions to secure a place in the top-tier Super League.
The West Yorkshire club has played at Cougar Park since 1899, but is making plans to improve facilities as the sport undergoes reform measures that will involve assessment of infrastructure.
Cougarmania Foundation, the charitable arm of the Cougars, is seeking to increase the stadium’s capacity through the development of a new 2,000-seat stand that would replace the existing Danny Jones Stand that has been in place since 1935.
Along with adding new media facilities, the stand would seek to cater to the local community on non-matchdays through the addition of classrooms, a café, fitness studio and health suite.
The Telegraph & Argus newspaper said it is expected that the project will be partly funded through the £33m (€37.4m/$41.3m) Keighley Towns Fund, with a decision on the application expected in July.
The application, submitted to City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, reads: “Due to the ambitions of the club and their endeavour to progress to the Super League, they are required to have a certain capacity and on-site facilities to meet the Rugby League (Council) requirements.
“As such, their current provisions are not considered to meet such requirements and there is a need for redevelopment of the ground to increase the capacity and provide vastly improved facilities.
“The current provisions fall short of standards, and should the club be promoted, without sufficient facilities at Cougar Park, they may have to move elsewhere (or not be promoted) i.e., to another club’s venue and use their ground as a home venue, to the dismay of fans, and will subsequently adversely impact employees and the wider area, due to the lack of regular expenditure in the local area that arises as a result of the club playing at Cougar Park.”
The Rugby League Council, the sport’s decision-making body which comprises representatives from all three professional competitions and the community game in the UK, last month voted in favour of Club Grading – the first element of the Reimagining Rugby League strategy which includes assessing clubs on their stadium infrastructure.
The IMG agency in March presented to the Rugby League Council a recommended grading criteria to define how Super League, Championship and League One clubs will be assessed from 2025. The criteria cover five areas as part of IMG’s Reimagining Rugby League plans. IMG last year signed a 12-year strategic partnership with the Rugby Football League (RFL) and Super League Europe to reimagine rugby league and its competitions in the UK.
Each of the five areas have been given a percentage of the overall weighting, with stadiums covering 15%. This grading principle will be based on a number of factors, including facilities and utilisation, which add value to the fan and broadcast or digital viewer experience, and match or exceed competition from other sports and events.
Grading is set to come into full effect from 2025, with the top-tier league featuring 12 clubs including all ‘Category A’ teams and the highest-ranking ‘Category B’ outfits. Gradings will be reassessed annually, meaning that promotion and relegation between the tiers is expected to continue, although it will no longer be wholly determined by on-field performance.