It had become increasingly clear that the Thunder bid was not going to tick all the boxes and that a nine-team format with a bye system was not a hugely palatable option.

It means existing clubs are now clear to plan their pre-season programme although it could leave several players in the lurch, especially those who had nailed their colours to the more promising Gold Coast bid which had looked all but rubber-stamped until very recently.

After meetings late this afternoon, Football Federation Australia (FFA) confirmed that the entry of Townsville and Gold Coast clubs to the Hyundai A-League has been delayed in the best interests of the competition.

“Expansion of the Hyundai A-League is a critical issue to the continuing evolution and growth of football,” said FFA CEO, Ben Buckley.

“We stated last month that our approach to expansion has to be both prudent and planned - and it is.”

Buckley said that both teams would benefit from the additional lead time to finalise some critical arrangements such as long term stadium agreements.

He reiterated the FFA’s earlier view that, ultimately, the Hyundai A-League has the capacity to be at least a 12 team competition.

“We will be continuing discussions with the consortia on the basis of a successful entry in to the Hyundai A-League in season 5.”