Keighley have issued a statement expressing their “deep upset” at the RFL’s decision to reject the club’s application to join a revamped Reserves structure in 2020.

The RFL recently announced the return of a more robust Reserves hierarchy for next season, but it appears the Cougars will play no part, despite being one of the few clubs outside Super League to run a second string in recent years.

In an open letter to supporters, Keighley’s Reserves head coach Dean Muir said: “I’m writing this open letter to our fans to express how deeply upset I truly am regarding the decision by the Rugby Football League to reject our application to join the revamped Reserves Championship competition in 2020.

“Regardless of what is said in the press over the coming days and weeks, the simple truth is that without the Keighley Cougars and Halifax since 2015, there would have been no reserve grade competition as we have been the backbone who kept the competition running when barely anyone at Super League level cared.

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“For us as a club, a club that has produced a number of first team players for both our club and others through the reserve grade, this is a heartbreaking decision and one that will set the Keighley Cougars back in being able to develop our own homegrown players.

“As upset as I am, I am more heartbroken for Jezza and Frank who have poured years of time, sweat and money into our reserves grade from the days of the scholarship to now, because without these two there wouldn’t have been a reserve team and the amount of players who have been coached from school age to playing in the professional game would have been a lot lower.

“And as well as Jez and Frank, I also am upset for Scott Lindsey, Liam Bowness, Paul Royston, Joshua Chapman, Judith Marples, Sam Lyles, Bianca Nixon, James Morton, Nathan Barnes, David & Margaret Procter and the Keighley Cougars Supporters Club, who have all over the years, this season especially, given up their time and expertise, mostly voluntary, to help us run our reserves team.

“And for all their hard work as well as my own, Frank and Jeremy’s to be cast to the side like this by our governing body is devastating.

“Despite the fact the club is launching a Category 3 Academy starting from this September, the pathway between college age and open age has now been cut and with Rugby League being a late maturation sport, it means our timescale and opportunity to help develop these players has now been damaged.

“I must say a massive thank you to all you fans and parents of the team and players because without you, there would be no crowds to watch the games and nobody to bring the younger lads to and from training and games to allow them to grow and develop.

“Finally, we now have a decision to make regarding the long-term future of our reserve players and club as well as making a decision short term on whether it is worth our time and money to complete this current season and fulfil our remaining five fixtures.

“We should be able to make our stance on that clear very soon. Thank you once again, Dean Muir.”