GENEVA -- Football agents got a lot richer last year.
Agents took a bigger cut from international player transfers in 2012, even as trading in the billion-dollar market fell by $290 million, according to FIFA research published Tuesday.
Player representatives took $163 million in fees from clubs, at 28 per cent average commission, as their total take from cross-border transfers rose $33 million last year.
"2012 witnessed a greater involvement of intermediaries," FIFA subsidiary Transfer Matching System (TMS) stated in an annual survey which logged deals worth $2.53 billion.
Clubs in 200 countries must use the online platform to detail all their payments when players move between different countries either for a fee, on loan or when out of contract.
English clubs spent the most, with FIFA processing $59 million in fees to agents in international deals.
Italian clubs paid $41 million and Russian clubs $23 million, and agents also banked payments from players which FIFA's system doesn't record.
"Obviously, money going to an intermediary is leaving football," TMS general manager Mark Goddard said in a conference call.
FIFA's insight into how much agents earn from clubs follows after football's governing body revealed in January it was preparing to help teams cut out middle men and deal directly with each other.
An online system called Global Player Exchange is being developed to help clubs share information about players available to sign.
Asked if the latest survey showed how agents drove up clubs' transfer expenses, Goddard replied: "I am happy we can give the data so that clubs can start asking questions themselves."
In 2012, player representatives were paid commissions from 706 international transfers, a 19 per cent increase year-on-year.
Agents' income soared despite FIFA logging a 10 per cent drop in total value of international transfers. In 2011, the market was worth $2.82 billion.
Goddard declined to speculate if the global financial downturn was responsible for a drop in spending when the total number of completed international transfers, 11,552, rose by 1 per cent last year. Seven out of every 10 transfers involved free-agent players.
English clubs, boosted by lucrative television deals, were net spenders of $314 million, and Russian clubs, backed by wealthy owners and sponsors, collectively spent $256 million more on international transfers than they received.
Countries where the European economic crisis hit hardest were net earners from FIFA-monitored transfer deals, including Portugal ($103 million), Italy ($91 million) and Spain ($50 million).
Brazil earned the most, with clubs collectively receiving $121 million more than they spent, as 1,463 transfers processed by TMS involved Brazilian players. United States players accounted for 174 completed cross-border deals.
Still, players of all nationalities moving to Brazil were collecting an average salary of $80,000, and just $40,000 in Argentina.
Italian clubs were playing an average salary of $720,000 to a player signed from elsewhere and English clubs paid an average of $680,000.
An intermediary was involved on behalf of a club or player in a total of 2,199 deals, 19 per cent of all international transfers.
FIFA does not yet monitor transfers between two clubs from the same association, such as Manchester United's reported 24 million pounds ($37 million) purchase of Robin van Persie from Arsenal last off-season.
Goddard said TMS, which became mandatory since 2010 to improve transparency in club finances, could expand in future to process domestic transfers.