Soccer clubs paid a record $888.1 million in agent service fees in 2023, a rise of 42.5 per cent on the previous year, world governing body FIFA said in its annual “Football Agents in International Transfers” report released on Thursday.
The previous record was in 2019 when worldwide spending on commissions to agents involved in the foreign transfer of players was $654.7 million. The 2022 number was $623.2 million.
English teams were the biggest spenders by far this year with a total outlay of more than $280 million, while 86.6 per cent of the worldwide spending came from European clubs, FIFA added.
Saudi Arabian clubs went on a spending spree this year, splashing out almost one billion dollars in the transfer window to lure top players from Europe and they had the second-biggest expenditure on hiring club agents at $86 million.
“The number of international transfers with an agent acting on behalf of the player reached a record high in 2023 with a total of 3,353 transfers,” FIFA said in its report.
“This corresponds to 15.4 per cent of all transfers and represents an increase of 8.4 per cent compared to 2022.”
In a first for women’s soccer, professional clubs spent more than $1 million in agent service fees, with the total hitting just under $1.4 million.
Agents have been at loggerheads with FIFA after they lost an appeal in July to block new rules that would cap their transfer commissions and introduce exams to secure a licence.
FIFA said it got 19,973 licensing applications this year with 9,207 taking the exam, which 32.6 per cent passed.
However, an English FA tribunal set up in June found earlier this month that the proposed FIFA regulations are incompatible with British competition law.