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Getting shirty!

I remember the 1986 World Cup quarter final between England and Argentina like it was yesterday. Watching the game as a teenager, feeling very proud at the time that a quartet of Everton players had propelled England to this stage of the competition. (I’m not as keen to talk about club football for the rest of this season though, as those who follow the sport will understand!)

What I do want to talk about however is the sale of Maradona’s shirt for a cool £7 million this week. Who in 1986 would have thought that a shirt which probably cost a few pounds to make at the time, would sell for this much? Not Steve Hodge I suspect, the England footballer who swapped his own shirt with Maradona after the game and who has subsequently sold the shirt by auction this week.

Now there are of course reasons as to why this one shirt is so valuable – the hand of God controversary in the game; the subsequent highs and lows of the best footballer in the world at the time; and Maradona’s untimely death at the age of 60. These factors all point to the influencing concept of ‘scarcity’ applying in this case. An item which is of limited edition, difficult to acquire, has unique iconic status etc. – will attract a higher value.

There’s also an important reminder that in our commercial deals, influence can enhance our trading position. When we trade variables (in this case shirts) we need to consider the cost of our own concessions (if you’re Steve Hodge it’s the loss of your shirt), but more importantly what’s the value of the item that I’m gaining (Maradona’s shirt). If we can, we also need to try to look beyond the ‘here and now’ and consider how time may have an impact on value as well.

It’s this mismatch in perception between the items that we exchange that creates the ‘value’, or as some would call it ‘differential marginal utility’. In our own commercial deals, it is often the things which are intangible or hard to monetise that can add the most value for the other party – examples might include: knowledge, expertise, insights etc. So, it’s worth reflecting with empathy on the value of these concessions as part of our planning process.

According to news reports, a delegation from Argentina comprising Maradona's family, a private memorabilia firm and the Argentinian Football Association (AFA), arrived in the UK shortly before the auction seeking to purchase the shirt for £5 million. One of the party was quoted as saying 'He (Steve Hodge) is selling something that belongs to Maradona and the AFA without authorisation’.

Given that Maradona willingly traded the shirt with Steve Hodge after the game, it would seem that in this instance, the old adage of ‘a fair exchange is no robbery’ would seem to apply.

Giving something away of value without getting something back in return, now that would be a crime!

Sam Macbeth 5th May, 2022

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