Under any criteria, the rise in the economic value of football in my lifetime has been remarkable. Two of the most obvious examples of this can be the found in transfer fees and broadcasting revenue.
In 1982, one of the greatest players of all time, Diego Maradona, left his native Argentina and signed for Barcelona. The cost of the transfer fee - just £3 million. That was almost 40 years ago. What about inflation? This must be a £100 million today, no?
Using UK data, and pound sterling fees (the euro was only created in 1999), Diego Maradona's real fee today is just £10.65 million. Just £10.65 million! In the most recent transfer window, Championship side Fulham signed Portuguese winger Ivan Cavaleiro for about the same real price as Maradona.
The rise in the real cost of footballers has been truly astonishing over the past 40 years. Data on this, considering each time the nominal record fee was broken, is presented below. As I pointed out in a post a number of years ago, on three occasions the nominal record was broken, but the real fee remained below the record price.
Zinedine Zidane and Kaka are the equivalent of 7 Diego's. Gareth Bale and Paul Pogba are today worth 9 Mardona's, Cristiano Ronaldo is worth 10. Neymar almost 20. That's an entire squad of players.
What funded this extravagant increases can be found in the far right columns - broadcasting fees. My data is only for English top flight football but is a reasonably good comparison. In 1982 Maradona's fee was worth more than the entire 1st Division broadcasting agreement between the FA, BBC and ITV.
The ratio between this and subsequent agreements makes the increase in the real cost of transfers seem small. It is astonishing growth. Today, the Premier League broadcasting rights are worth more than 200 times what they were when Maradona left Buenos Aires in 1982. And this is in real terms! It is what largely continues to fuel transfer fees and salary increases.
Will Covid-19 lead to a transfer fee correction? There are many factors at play, but it is possible.
To what extent, will depend on changes in the broadcasting fees paid by providers and the impact of the crisis on the wealth level of rich owners. Any correction may also be a short run effect. If broadcasting fees are unaffected, 'normal' service will likely resume sooner rather than later.