By Dan Santy 24/08 Updated: 24/08 14:45
SADNESS has met bankrupt Rugby Lions' ejection from all professional leagues just four months after the club earned promotion at the end of a 'perfect' season.
The biggest club in the birthplace of rugby union was this week thrown out of National League Two South after the sport's governing body dealt it the ultimate punishment for racking up huge debts.
It comes a month after it emerged the company which owns the Webb Ellis Road outfit - the Rugby Football club (2011) - had gone into liquidation, with most of last season's star players jumping ship having not been paid.
In the weeks since then the Lions have been in talks with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) over how they could move forward.
But with the Webb Ellis Road-based club unable to repay its creditors, it has been thrown out of the league two weeks before the start of the new season.
The sad end to the saga comes just one year after Rugby born businessman Mike Aland took over the club, making big name signings and promising top flight rugby by 2016 at the earliest.
A statement released by the RFU said the Lions had failed to meet a repayment deadline set for 5pm last Friday (August 17).
RFU chairman of governance, Peter Baines, said: "The club has been unable to meet those obligations and as a result will play no part in the leagues in this coming season. National League Two South will continue with 15 clubs.
"We hope with the help and support of the community the club will be able to rejoin the league structure in the future.
"Supporting our clubs and keeping players on the field is the core of what the RFU does but in this case the club was unable to satisfy its rugby creditors and meet agreed targets in line with our regulations.
"The consequences of getting into severe financial difficulties can be catastrophic for clubs and this event underlines how important it is for them to live within their means."
When the Lions' winding up was announced last month, there remained a glimmer of hope the club could bounce back and compete in the RFU's leagues this year.
But any hope has now gone, leaving those living in hope of the Lions mounting a push for the Premiership bitterly disappointed.
Town MP and rugby fan Mark Pawsey said: "I was greatly saddened to learn of the action being taken against the Rugby Lions.
"I had hoped the RFU would give the club more time to put its affairs in order but regrettably this did not happen.
"As a rugby enthusiast and the chairman of the Lords and Commons Rugby Union Football Club, this sad news has resonated with me deeply.
"As the birthplace of the game, and with so many excellent junior clubs, Rugby deserves a team playing a good standard of rugby.
"My great hope is the club will be able to rebuild quickly and that this can be achieved by using a foundation of local youngsters."
Twitter has been awash with reaction to the news of the Lions' removal from the leagues. Rugby fans in the town and across the country, along with former players, have expressed their sadness at the situation.
Attempts made by the Observer this week to contact a Rugby Lions representative were unsuccessful - as many other attempts have been in previous months.
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