One Direction have been named the biggest British band in the world.

The 'Night Changes' hitmakers - Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne - have fought off stiff competition from artists including Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran to claim the title for the third year in a row.

Simon Cowell - who mentored them on 'The X Factor' before signing them to his Syco record label - told The Sun newspaper: ''I am absolutely delighted and immensely proud that One Direction were the biggest UK act in the world in 2014.

''To accomplish this for a third year in the row is a fantastic achievement - and especially pleasing as this latest album also highlighted the band's skills as songwriters.''

The heartthrobs' success is based on figures from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) whose Global Recording Artist Chart shows that they outsold all other British acts for a third consecutive year following the release of their latest album 'Four', which topped the iTunes chart in 85 different countries.

Meanwhile, the 'Story of My Life' crooners are nominated for Best British Group and Best British Video at the BRIT awards tomorrow night (25.02.15).