The Wellington Phoenix's all-time leading goal-scorer Paul Ifill says Football Federation Australia simply don't want the Wellington club in the A-League competition.
The former English Premier League striker was with the club from 2009-2014 and said the FFA's rejection of a 10-year licence for the Welnix group was a clear indication they don't want the Phoenix in the competion.
The FFA declined the club's request for a 10-year licence extension and the Phoenix released a statement saying they are seeking "greater clarity" around the decision, but wouldn't say much more.
The club's current licence expires at the end of the current season although the FFA said the Phoenix can still request a four-year licence.
"It says to me that they don't want us in the league. It's that simple. Other teams have been given a 20-year licence extension [and some of them] have been run very poorly and propped up by the FFA," Ifill said.
"The Phoenix since Welnix took over have been really well-run and things have been going well on and off the pitch - and all of a sudden that's not deemed good enough and (the four-year offer) simply gives them time to get somebody else ready, and then they're saying we'll be out of it anyway," he said.
Ifill said moving the club to another New Zealand city wouldn't make a difference.
"You could move to Auckland or Christchurch it wouldn't make a difference. The fact that it is in New Zealand is the problem for the FFA. If you're not an Australian club you're deemed not important enough to be in the league," he said.
The nine other A-League teams have licences that run until 2034.
FFA boss David Gallop said the board's unwillingness to stretch their life beyond that was "in the best interests of Australian football" and staying until 2019/20 may only prolong the inevitable.
"We will be seeking greater clarity around the reasons for rejection of the proposal and how the FFA is evaluating the Phoenix's contribution to game development, player pathway, commercial factors, broadcast rights and the long-term success of the Hyundai A-League, to which the Phoenix is already making a material and positive contribution," the Phoenix's statement said.
The Phoenix's Welnix ownership group and board will now meet to consider the license extension option in the existing Club Participation Agreement, though a time frame on any decision making process hasn't been announced.
The statement said the club would continue to negotiate in good faith with the FFA.
The financial element aside, the club has the added complication of distance and the fact that it falls under the Oceania Football Confederation and not Asia, like the competition's nine Australian outfits.
If Wellington were to leave, it would present an opportunity for a 10th Australian team to enter the league as a replacement and fuel reports of a potential new franchise in southern Sydney.
Shaping up as favourites are the Sutherland Shire or St George areas, both of which have big local talent pools and are seen as regions which could quickly gain traction with fans.
A New South Wales South Coast club may also be an option, with National Premier Leagues NSW side Wollongong Wolves known to have A-League ambitions, while there have been suggestions a joint southern Sydney-Illawarra venture could create a viable new fan base.
The ACT's governing body Capital Football has also lobbied for a Canberra team to join the fray.
Last week Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold was sceptical about the possibility of five NSW-based sides in a 10-team competition, saying it was simply too many for a national league.
Should a third Sydney team join the Sky Blues and the Western Sydney Wanderers, it would mean an increase in derby fixtures from three to nine each season.
"I know that derbies are special but how many derbies can you have? Maybe Brisbane needs one, maybe Adelaide could do with one," Arnold said.
"Do we need another one? We've already got four teams in NSW. A fifth will maybe make one too many."
Phoenix supporters club Yellow Fever spokesperson David Cross said Welnix wanted a commitment from FFA for a longer-term future, and the rejection was an insult.
"If I was the Phoenix owners and I saw them turning around and offering me four years, that to me says that they believe that in four years they will have the wherewithal to manufacture a club in Sydney - or wherever else they want one - at the expense of the Phoenix," Cross said.