The AFL appears to have thrown its support behind Brisbane Lions chairman Angus Johnson with three-time premiership coach Leigh Matthews now in serious doubt to return to the club and serve on the board.
AFL boss Andrew Demetriou has threatened to withdraw funding to the cash-strapped Lions should Matthews and his ticket go ahead with an extraordinary general meeting to overthrow Johnson and four Brisbane directors.
Demetriou is privately denying he is at odds with Matthews and remains hopeful of convincing the Hall of Fame legend to assume a directorship under Johnson, who, in turn, has reportedly put in place a succession plan not involving rogue board members Paul Williams and Mick Power who both come up for election later this year.
However Matthews has indicated he could walk away, refusing to serve under Johnson, whose five-year financial rescue plan for the club - soon to enter its third year - has received strong endorsement from the commission.
Should the AFL make good on its threat, the club would struggle without additional funds to pay 100 per cent of the salary cap under new coach Justin Leppitsch.
The Lions have a funding bid for $1.5 million before the AFL Commission to bolster the football department and appoint two new development coaches. Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick, Demetriou and his deputy Gillon McLachlan have stepped in to manage the Brisbane crisis with Fitzpatrick looking to reassemble the disaffected parties in Melbourne before the grand final.
Demetriou said in a media conference: ''Our position is very clear - if the members want to call an EGM, they can do that. They can appoint who they want. But they shouldn't rely on the AFL's financial support. And we've done that with the Melbourne Football Club."
Wealthy engineering boss Power, who appears to have a long-standing vendetta against Johnson, has in turn threatened to personally put forward the $1.5 million in funding with the AFL reportedly not embracing his and Williams' future vision for the Lions, although still hopeful of a compromise.
Tuesday's fiery meeting with the divided board and the AFL saw an angry Power convey to Fitzpatrick and co that Johnson was unpopular and had outstayed his welcome having indicated he would remain at the helm for no longer than a year.
Demetriou is understood to have responded along the lines of: ''No one likes me either and I only planned to stay in this job for three years and I've been here for 10 years.''
Johnson said at the Leppitsch announcement: ''That [five-year strategic] plan has been embraced by all of our stakeholders, the AFL, our members and our corporate sponsors.
''We're achieving what we want to achieve and I'd say after two years we're slightly ahead.''
Demetriou said later on Wednesday: ''The club is not in the perilous state that people are making out.''