By Dan Santy 26/07 Updated: 31/07 12:53
CONFIDENCE is high Rugby Lions will be saved from collapsing despite plunging into liquidation.
It emerged last week the company which owns the 139-year-old club had been wound up on June 25 with huge debts after months of players not being paid and the recent departure of high profile head coach Neil Back.
It has left a big question mark looming over the future of the Webb Ellis Road outfit, with its current squad to disband despite earning promotion to the fourth tier and winning every game along the way.
But as the main club in the town where rugby union was born, there are many who want to ensure its survival, and it is believed attempts to take over at least part of the club will be made.
And with its Webb Ellis Road ground owned by Rugby Borough Council, and long-serving club member Mark Ellis stepping in as coach, there is hope the club will be able to continue playing.
The Insolvency Service is now investigating what happened to the owning company, The Rugby Football Club (2011) Ltd, and wants to question director Mike Aland, who arrived at Webb Ellis Road last March amid much fanfare after promising Premiership rugby and a 30,000 seat stadium.
A spokesman for the Insolvency Service said it was too early to say what the full extent of the debts were but confirmed the company owed £70,000 to sportswear supplier Genesis Group International Ltd, which called in the liquidators.
The spokesman added: "There haven't been any formal bids made for a takeover, but there is strong sentiment a 139-year-old club should be rescued and not allowed to close.
"If it doesn't happen, it could mean the end of the club.
"But what tends to happen in these situations is somebody may try to take over part of the club to keep it going."
Rugby born construction boss Mr Aland arrived at Webb Ellis Road in March 2011, laying out his hugely ambitious plans to make the Lions a top flight side and hiring Rugby World Cup winner Back as coach to help realise his dream.
And despite a perfect season in which the club won all 26 of its league games and earned promotion to the fourth tier, that same squad has been decimated with around 20 players - including star fly half Ben Gollings - already departed because wages were not paid.
Lions fan and town MP Mark Pawsey expressed his dismay at the situation but said he was confident the club would remain next season.
"I'm a great rugby enthusiast and like everybody else I was excited about the ambitious ideas they had for bringing a better class of rugby to the town, so I'm saddened we are where we are now," he said.
"The club is a fundamental part of the town and it would be a travesty if it were to close down after nearly 140 years."
Mr Pawsey added he had called the RFU for updates on where club goes from here.
"It's not long until the start of the season, the current squad is gone and the Lions are in the divison above where the standard will be a lot tougher. It will be a real challenge to find the players and get a squad together in time.
"It's difficult to know exactly what's happened, but I feel very sorry for the players who have been let down. I just hope something positive can come out of this so people in Rugby can continue going to watch and support the club.
"The Lions have gone through difficult times in the past and have recovered. I'm confident they can bounce back again."
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