Tom Lawrence, the club’s chief executive, revealed that the National League gave no notice about the embargo, which is preventing boss Kevin Maher from adding to his squad.
The embargo would also appear to rule out Southend extending Brunt and Lopata’s loan spells, which are scheduled to end at the end of this month.
National League rules state that an embargo means “a ban on a club signing, re-signing, exercising an option to sign, extending a contract, converting a loan into a permanent transfer, converting a short-term loan into a long-term loan, loaning or seeking in any way to register a player, whether on a contractual or non-contractual basis or as an amateur, trainee, academy, work experience or schoolboy associate other than within any of the Embargo Terms and Exemptions hereinafter contained.”
If they were still under embargo when the pair’s loans end, and providing United agree to extend, Southend could appeal to the league.
But if they were to return to United, they couldn’t be loaned out again to a different club. Fifa laws allow a player to be registered to three clubs in a season, but he can only play “official matches” for two.
Both Brunt and Lopata have appeared for the Blades this season in the EFL Cup, also turning out for Southend in the National League. Fifa rules define official matches as those “played within the framework of organised football, such as national league championships, national cups and international championships for clubs, but not including friendly and trial matches.”
So as things stand, the young pair’s immediate futures are in limbo until the embargo on Southend is lifted.
"We are hoping that negotiations with HMRC will be concluded in a matter of days rather than several weeks,” Lawrence added last week, “enabling Kevin to bring in new players swiftly.”