Keighley Cougars are back in business and will open the season at Whitehaven on February 17.

There had been much concern over whether financially-embarrassed Keighley would be able to start the League One campaign.

But the Rugby Football League Board has approved the transfer of membership of Keighley Cougars to a new consortium.

The club had been placed in special measures under their previous ownership, but will now be free to sign players ahead of the start of the Betfred League One season.

As a result of the recent circumstances surrounding the club and this transfer of membership, the new owners have accepted that they should start the season with a 12-point deduction.

In addition to competing in the Betfred League One, the Cougars will also enter the Coral Challenge Cup and the new 1895 Cup and will continue to play at Lawkholme Lane (Cougar Park).

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.”

The news has been well received in West Cumbria, particularly at Whitehaven who are due to host the Cougars in their opening League One fixture.

Director Andrew Canavan said: “It’s great news.

"We were obviously concerned, not just over the opening fixture but for the future of a long-standing club.

"We can now plan for the game, in good time thankfully.”

Workington Town chairman Les Smallwood said: “It’s brilliant news and we are all delighted they are back in business.

"I have been regularly in touch with coach Craig Lingard with offers of help.”

A turbulent pre-season for the Cougars 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 on the same role at Championship side Featherstone Rovers.

Haven chairman Tom Todd had previously expressed concern about the potential loss of Keighley to League One and the impact on his own club the absence of another home fixture would have.

Whitehaven are set to host Newcastle Thunder in their final preseason game next Sunday.