THE owners of Keighley Cougars have defended themselves in the ongoing wages dispute at the club - but their claims have been refuted by former head coach Craig Lingard.

Majority shareholder Austria Holdings state that Cougars players are owed one month's salary, adding all debts will be cleared by the end of this year.

And they say meetings have taken place with staff to "implement a proposed payments schedule".

Cougars players and staff have claimed they were owed money, which includes wages and bonuses, going back to August.

Former head coach Craig Lingard and player of the year Ritchie Hawkyard have gone on record to claim that a number of deadlines for wages have been missed - the latest one being on Tuesday.

Lingard told the Telegraph & Argus today he has still not been paid and is still no longer with the club.

But Austria Holdings have denied this and reassured Rugby Football League chiefs last Friday that wages would be paid.

An Austria Holdings spokesman said: "There have been reports given regarding the non-payment of wages over the last few months, however this information is incorrect reporting.

"The players have received payments as detailed since the club has been in the hands of the new owners, a payment in August, two payments in September and a payment in October.

"This means the players are owed one month's salary which is due to be paid at the end of November together with the bonuses which are in line with their RFL contracts. Please note this is all documented in our accounts and bank statements.

"The coaching staff have hereditary debt with the Cougars and meetings have taken place with each person to implement a proposed payment schedule. The payment plans will be executed and cleared by the end of 2018."

The Austria Holdings statement added general manager Steve Gill remains with the club and is working with the RFL to get Cougars out of special measures.

The statement said: "As a club we are moving forward. Steve Gill is working tirelessly with the RFL to bring the club out of special measures. However, the club was already in special measures at the time the new ownership took place.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the hereditary creditors who have stuck by the Cougars through this difficult time and it is envisaged that all the creditors will be cleared by the end of 2018, enabling Cougars to move forward into the new season.

"While formally giving thanks, it is very important to issue a massive 'thank you' to all the staff and volunteers for all the hard work, time and input they have given together with the in wavering support they have provided during this difficult time at the club.

"It is vital that the formulated business plan continues to make the club totally sustainable and build foundations both for the present day and for the future of the Keighley Cougars Club."

A Cougars Supporters' Club meeting with Gill is due to take place tonight. But Austria Holding said in their statement: "We feel the meeting due to take place tonight will be unproductive at this time as we need to move the current situation forward and to put the business on a sustainable path.

"The meeting will be rearranged at a more appropriate time."

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

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.

An RFL spokesman said earlier this week the sport's governing body "is concerned about and monitoring the situation at Keighley".

It added the club remains in special measures and therefore not permitted to contact or register any players with the RFL. They were also seeking clarity over its governance.