It's a familiar saga to Spurs fans—a top young player establishes himself on the European stage thanks to a series of strong performances for Tottenham. Then in the summer that player begins to talk about leaving and by summer's end he's gone. We've seen it most recently with Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, even if Modric's departure was delayed by a season thanks to Daniel Levy. The same story is threatening to play out again, thanks to Christian Eriksen's agent, but his claims about Thursday's referendum on whether the United Kingdom should leave the European Union are well off-base.
Why would Eriksen leave?
According to his agent, Eriksen would leave (and perhaps even be forced to leave) due to the UK voting to leave the EU. Here is Eriksen's agent speaking with Italian media:
"We are underestimating the danger. The truth is that half the Premier League players will see their work permits turned into scrap paper. In a situation like this, I’d take my client away from Tottenham."
Here's all you need to know about that: It's almost certainly ridiculous and completely wrong. It is simply not true that "half" the Premier League players would lose their work permits due to Brexit. In the first place, the only players affected by Brexit are EU, non-British players, which is nowhere near "half" the Premier League. Second, Brexit may take up to two years so for the immediate future, EU players are fine. Third, all that Brexit does is require EU players to go through the same work permit process that foreign, non-EU players currently go through.
The process for getting a work permit is somewhat complicated, but a basic rule of thumb is that if the player in question is from a respectable footballing nation and has international appearances, they will probably get a work permit. Even in cases where they don't, the work permit rules have proven to be fairly flexible, as they were in the case of Chelsea's acquisition of Willian who had not yet played a competitive game for Brazil when he was signed from Anzhi Makhachkala in the summer of 2013. (Erik Lamela also did not have extensive international experience when he signed for Spurs.)
For players like Kevin Wimmer or Michel Vorm, Brexit could create problems, but for most EU players in Premier League senior squads, it will not be an issue. Even Wimmer would likely be able to fit through a loophole as he is clearly an exciting young talent, has also been a starter in the Bundesliga, and has been in the Austria senior squad, even if he hasn't yet made many appearances.
The one type of player who could be effected by this en masse would be 16-18 year-olds from the EU, who would not be able to secure work permits as easily after Brexit. This would affect players like Adnan Januzaj at Manchester United or Nabil Bentaleb at Spurs, who joined the club as a 17-year-old from little-known French club Dunkerque. But it will have little-to-no impact on most foreign players in the Premier League and will likely have minimal impact on EU players who wish to join Premier League teams.
If you are good enough to attract interest from the Premier League, you likely either have international appearances or are a promising enough talent to squeeze through a loophole in the same way that Willian and Lamela did. Put another way, it's hard to see the FA denying players like David De Gea, Dimitri Payet, or N'Golo Kante simply because they haven't been capped by their (very strong) national team. Additionally, the English FA plays a role in defining the work permit regulations for footballers and they obviously have every incentive to act in ways that keep the Premier League competitive. So there is no reason that regulations could not be eased to avoid any sort of apocalyptic outcome.
What this means, in practice, then, is that a lot of the rhetoric about all the EU players who will supposedly lose their work permits is just empty chatter that is totally disconnected from the reality of how work permits actually work in England. (Gab Marcotti's piece for ESPN FC on this is helpful.)
OK, so work permits won't be a problem for most players. Are there any other potential problems?
Work permits won't be a problem. That said, a massive devaluation of the pound could create problems for transfer fees or player wages. It's too soon to say if that will actually happen though. So for now we should wait and see how the markets behave. That said, if the pound did see a significant long-term devaluation relative to the euro, that would create some problems for Premier League teams.
Beyond that, most of the potential problems have far more to do with soft cultural factors than they do with hard legal processes that would make it impossible for players to come to England. If England comes to be perceived globally as some sort of viciously anti-immigrant, nationalistic country, then that perception could influence individual players when they are weighing a move to the Premier League.
London and Manchester, cities with significant diversity in both population and cultural offerings, were the preferred destinations of most top foreign players even before the referendum. It's possible that clubs like Stoke City, Sunderland, or West Bromwich Albion, all of which are in areas of England that voted heavily in favor of leaving the EU, could suffer a change in perception with players from the continent. This could, in turn, make it difficult for them to attract foreign players and stack the deck even more heavily in favor of the clubs in major cosmopolitan urban centers.
That said, even on that point one suspects the wealth of the Premier League will be enough to attract most foreign players.
The work permit fears are almost certainly over-stated. Elite foreign players will still be able to come to England with minimal difficulty. The bigger concern is actually with the value of the British pound, but as long as the pound doesn't become massively devalued, even that shouldn't be too much of a problem for Premier League clubs. We'll have to wait and see how the markets respond once the initial shock from the voting result wears off.