NEW figures released by the Football Association highlight how Sunderland spent more than three times on agents to what they actually did on new signings over the last 14 months.

The new numbers published have also shown that Middlesbrough, despite heavy spending last summer, paid approaching £2m less than their Wearside counterparts despite playing in the same division.

Following promotion to the Premier League at the end of last season, Newcastle United spent more than £7.5m on agents’ fees which ranks them 11th in the top-flight’s spending.

The FA’s data includes any deals completed since the closure of the January transfer window in 2017.

The £4.37m Sunderland paid on intermediary and agents' fees was the second-highest total in the Championship behind Aston Villa's £5.51m.

Yet that was during a period when Sunderland spent just £1.25m on players' transfer fees during the last two windows, courtesy of signing James Vaughan and Jason Steele for £500,000 each and Aiden McGeady for £250,000.

Sunderland, who have also changed their manager twice, made a further 12 signings on a free or as a loan but they are battling to avoid relegation to League One with six matches remaining.

Middlesbrough paid substantially less than their Wearside neighbours (£2,538,840) even though they invested more than £40m in incoming transfer deals last summer in a bid to secure promotion back to the top-flight.

Newcastle had already booked a place at that level and the hefty £7,409,760 paid out over the last 12 months to agents means they sit around mid-table in the rankings; that was more than the other new Premier League clubs Brighton and Huddersfield, who spent more on transfers.

In the National League, Hartlepool United were one of the biggest spenders on agents’ fees after paying very little out in that area under the ownership of IOR in previous years.

Pools paid £18,849 to agents which was the second highest figure at that level behind Leyton Orient, who spent £38,537. Hartlepool are on the verge of being taken over by Raj Singh after Sage Investments struggled to turn things around last summer.