Gold Coast have accused the Australian Rugby Union ignoring the game's grass-roots in favour of pay-TV ratings by backing Melbourne for the Super 15 licence.
The Coast and Western Sydney were both left disappointed by the ARU's endorsement of Melbourne to be the sole bidder for the fifth team in the Australian conference from 2011.
Even Melbourne bid teams were surprised that neither the Coast nor Western Sydney were included in the next stage of a process, which will be finalised in October.
Gold Coast's bid chief Terry Jackman says the ARU gave members of his team the impression they would be included in the next stage.
Jackman, a former ARU director, feels the initial bidding exercise has been a "charade" as Melbourne had been the preferred candidate due to its sizeable market and advantage in boosting Foxtel subscriptions.