Football Federation Australia today refused to say if Fox Sports came up with the cash for their latest payment for A-League TV rights, sparking fears the broadcaster has pulled the plug.
Fox was due to put around $12m in the FFA's bank account on Wednesday as the latest instalment of the near $60m a year deal, which still has three more seasons left to run.
But with the A-League suspended last month by the coronavirus, Fox were said to be considering their options on their deal's future.
Fox have been keen to exit the A-League after viewing figures plummeted recently and the channel embarked on major cost-cutting across all sports.
The move to hand ownership of the A-League to the clubs themselves has had to be put on hold to protect the TV deal in case Fox used it as a reason to walk away.
Now though the coronavirus crisis has created a new opportunity for Fox to rip up the deal.
With the final games of the home and away season yet to be played to determine the season's Premiers, and the finals series on ice, Fox can argue the FFA failed to deliver a conclusion to the season and withhold the money.
The broadcaster was at one stage expected to pay this instalment then delay paying the rest until the season re-started.
But FFA's refusal today to make any comment or confirm the payment was made suggests the deal is off and they are in talks with Fox to try to save it.
The TV deal is pivotal to the future of the A-League in its current form.
The $60m a year covers the salary cap for all the clubs and provides the competition with a national, prime-time every-match-live showcase for fans, sponsors and partners.
Without Fox's annual investment - and unless the FFA can do the impossible and find a replacement broadcaster willing to pay a similar amount - it will throw all clubs' business plans and strategies into chaos.
Squads have been built and player contracts signed on the expected TV grant money covering the salary cap.
Clubs will either have to find millions more to meet the cost of the wages bill, or the tournament will have to reset the cap and negotiate new contracts, throwing player futures into jeopardy.
Commercial partnerships at club, A-League and FFA level have also been signed on the basis of the exposure the TV deal brings.
Seven of the 12 A-League clubs have already stood down their players without pay during the covid-19 crisis and there are fears for the long-term future of several of those clubs.
Insiders fear that if three or four of the clubs fold in the crisis, it could take the whole league down with them.
The former Head of the A-League Archie Fraser told FTBL: "It appears the value of the licence has almost evaporated.
"And the value of the licence has been the thing that has kept a lot of the clubs going, thinking that they've got an asset. But that asset's only got worth if they've got competitors in a league.
"It only takes three or four of the clubs to say that's enough, I'm not topping it up any more – and then I don't think there's going to be an appetite for five new licences at $15m a licence..."
He added: "The FFA's books are going to be looking horrendous.
"Sponsorships are going to be either delayed, held back or terminated. Everything has just dried up and they don't really have enough resources.
"I can't see the A-League season getting finished... It's not good."