BARNSLEY owner Patrick Cryne has warned Sheffield United to prepare for a legal battle over Iain Hume – even if his club is not relegated to League One.
Cryne is adamant that Barnsley have a case against the Blades as a result of the challenge by defender Chris Morgan that fractured Hume's skull five months ago.
Lawyer Maurice Watkins, who, ironically, represented West Ham United against the Blades in the 'Carlos Tevez affair', is advising Barnsley and 17 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion calling on the Football Association to take action against Morgan.
The Blades won compensation in the region of 25m from West Ham after proving that Tevez, who was signed illegally, played a key role in their relegation from the Premier League two years ago.
Hume's absence is a major reason why Barnsley are in danger of the drop although a point from Sunday's final game of the season at Plymouth Argyle will be enough to preserve their Championship status.
Cryne, who sanctioned the 1.2m signing of Hume from Leicester City last summer, said: "We are looking at the legal hurdles in the way of seeking to recover damages from Sheffield United. Our action will not be dependent on whether we are relegated.
"Our argument is, simply, that we paid a lot of money for Iain Hume in transfer fee and wages and we have lost his services through a violent, reckless, or intentional act. His loss to Barnsley FC had a serious impact on our season."
Outlining his frustration at the existing laws, Cryne revealed that Barnsley may have no option but to launch a test case at the Court of Appeal.
"The law is absurd in this area and precedent is against one employer suing another because the employee of one has inflicted damage on the employee of another," he said.
"If a Sheffield United player had recklessly damaged our property, we could have sued them with a strong prospect of success. The precedent for property being considered more important than people dates back to the days of slavery and has never been changed.
"To be successful, we would probably have to ask the High Court for leave to have the case heard by the Court of Appeal or House of Lords in order to overcome the case precedents. We could take a test case and try to change the law. That could open the floodgates."
The Football Association's inability to take action against Morgan, ironically a former Barnsley player, has been a major source of anger and disappointment at Oakwell.
Club officials have explicit footage of the challenge, in which Hume is struck on the head by Morgan's right elbow, but FIFA rules will only allow retrospective action in cases where a referee failed to spot and punish an offence. Andy D'Urso, the official in charge, booked Morgan for the challenge.
"It's an absurdity that the FA cannot punish this offence because it has, apparently, been dealt with at the time," said Cryne. "It is perverse that we can not re-visit an event of this seriousness, even with the benefit of modern technology.
"This is not a witch-hunt against Chris Morgan," he stressed. "But it was a serious offence. The game has to have consistency in the way a foul on the field of play is punished."
Should Barnsley be relegated this weekend, the implications of Hume's absence will be even greater as Barnsley set about trimming budgets for life in League One.
Cryne, however, does not agree with the idea of blaming other clubs for loss of income in the manner that the Blades pursued compensation from West Ham.
"I am not sure the Sheffield United route on Tevez is something we would be interested in following," he said. "We would not blame Iain Hume's loss for relegation but we would seek compensation for that loss. I don't believe you can 100 per cent blame Carlos Tevez for Sheffield United's relegation. We won't go down that route because I think it would be quite wrong. They had it in their own hands.
"We have lost money and we have lost an important player," he said. "It is the financial loss of not being able to call upon a 1m player and the costs we have had to pay on his replacements (that matters)."
Canadian international Hume has now returned to full training with Barnsley, but doctors are unable to offer any guarantees that he will able to play competitive football again.
"Until that happens, you don't know if the psychological and physical damage will make him any less of a player than before," said Cryne. "He wants to play again and is training hard to achieve that goal. All the doctors can say now is that it is expected to have healed before the start of next season."
It is understood that Hume is also considering a civil action against Morgan, depending on the extent of his losses.
"At the moment, he is still being paid his wages and has only lost out on bonuses," said Cryne.
"If he never gets back from his injury, he would take action for sure, because he would have lost his career. In that case, he would be likely to win."
Sheffield United were unavailable for comment last night.