There is a drop in transfer fees paid but when you expect to see a similar drop in agent fees, instead we see a slight increase. There was one player moving from France to Germany and it involved an agent payment that was 111.8% fee compared to the total of the player contract. That is why we are looking at abusive and excessive practices.
The FIFA report, Intermediaries in International Transfers, covers all deals this year, with European clubs accounting for 95.8% of the total $500.8m paid to agents (from a total international transfer fee of $4.31bn).
Fees of $1m or more to agents occurred on 117 occasions, with isolated cases of service fees even surpassing $10m.
In 2020, $497.5m was paid to agents from a total international transfer base of $5.18bn.
English clubs were the biggest spenders on agents, $133m, ahead of those in Germany ($84.3m) and Italy ($73.5m) with those three countries plus Spain, France and Portugal accounting for 77 per cent of the world's total. Brazil ($11.9m - ninth place) was the only nation in the top 10 outside of Europe (see below graphic).
English clubs also made the most use of intermediaries when engaging players: 203 of their 562 incoming transfers had at least one intermediary representing the engaging club (36.1%). Italian clubs have the second highest such share with 35.5%, followed by Welsh clubs at 25.9%. Japan (19.6%) was the sole non-European country in the top 10.
Clubs in Germany and Italy relied most frequently on intermediaries when releasing a player: in both of these associations, 15% of the outgoing transfers involved at least one intermediary representing the releasing club. Brazil is the only non-European member association in the top 10, with intermediaries involved in 9.3% of its releasing transfers.
As in 2020, Norwegian players used intermediaries the most in 2021, being represented by one or more intermediaries in 47.4% of their 65 international transfers. Players from Jamaica (40.0%) and Denmark (39.5%) complete the top three.
FIFA continues agents' reform push
The release of the report comes as FIFA continues its attempts to amend regulations relating to agents, including capping the amount of money they can make from any transfer deal.
A third version of new regulations are out for consultation in the game, which include caps on all types of fees paid to agents, rather than simply the commission from a transfer. In total an agent will never be able to claim more than 10% of a transfer fee or a player’s annual remuneration, and will often be entitled to less.
There has been opposition from many of the world’s most powerful agents, with legal action threatened.
Fifa says it remains in dialogue with the majority of agents and has shared its latest draft of regulations with those agents who remain outside the process.
James Kitching, director of football regulatory at FIFA, said of the 2021 findings: "There is a drop in transfer fees paid but when you expect to see a similar drop in agent fees, instead we see a slight increase.
"There was one player moving from France to Germany and it involved an agent payment that was 111.8% fee compared to the total of the player contract. That is why we are looking at abusive and excessive practices."
FIFA's head of agents Luis Villas-Boas Pires added: "We have several examples of agents receiving more than the players' salary, which is what we want to prevent. There are some interesting figures, £2m, £5m, £10m. But it is more about the relation between the fee and the salary.
"We want transparency, (to know) how much an agent is paid. But also, who is licenced. Who are the clients? What service will they provide?"
The FIFA report, Intermediaries in International Transfers, can be read in full here.