Football agents’ fees linked to international transfers in the men’s game reached an all-time high in 2023, according to new data published by FIFA.

Agents earned 888.1million US dollars (£701.6m) from such deals, the sport’s global governing body found.

The figure represents a 42.5 per cent increase on last year and is up by more than one third on the previous record set in 2019, FIFA said.

English clubs were the single biggest contributors to this year’s record total, spending 280m US dollars (£221.2m) on agents’ service fees, with Saudi Arabian clubs the second-highest spenders as buyers on 86m US dollars (£68m).

FIFA’s report excludes domestic transfer deals such as those involving Moises Caicedo, Declan Rice and Kai Havertz, so the true amount earned by agents in the year will be substantially higher.

New regulations which would cap agents’ fees have been ruled to be in breach of UK competition law.

The Football Association had been due to introduce the new domestic rules – which closely mirror new FIFA agent regulations at international level – from October 1, but a legal challenge was launched by four player agencies.

That challenge sparked arbitration proceedings, and while the full decision has not been published, the FA announced on November 30 that the tribunal had ruled the fee cap to be anti-competitive.

Jonathan Barnett's Stellar agency were one of four groups who challenged proposed new FA rules

FIFA’s rules have also been challenged in other jurisdictions. A district court in Dortmund granted an injunction preventing certain aspects of the new regulations – including the fee cap – being applied to any deal where any party – agent, club, player or coach – had a link to the German market.

In the summer, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) indicated its backing for the legitimacy of the FIFA regulations.

In its 89-page award, the CAS panel noted: “FIFA did demonstrate that the prospect of higher agent service fees incentivises agents to generate more transfers, which in turn produces a series of negative effects on the market of football agent services.

“Therefore, capping agent service fees is appropriate to remediate or mitigate the negative effects highlighted by FIFA.”

Under the new rules, agents working on transfer deals where a player’s salary is due to be over 200,000 US dollars a year would have their fees capped at six per cent of the annual excess above that amount where they have represented the player and the buying club, or three per cent if they represented one of those parties.

Agents representing the selling club will be entitled to a fee equivalent to 10 per cent of the transfer compensation.

The FIFA report also found that agents’ fees in the women’s game exceeded one million US dollars for the first time. The number of deals involving agents reached a record 125, an increase of more than 20 per cent compared to 2022, and the fees totalled 1.4m US dollars (£1.1m).