Across Sports: How Much Do Referees Make?


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How much do referees make? This depends on the sport and the experience of the individual. That said, we all agree that refereeing isn’t a job for the faint-hearted. Additionally, they receive a lot of scrutiny which attracts both the positive and negative spotlight by the press. 

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Is the pressure and money worth the effort? This article examines referees’ salaries across different sports like the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), soccer and other sports.  

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How Much Do Premier League Referees Make?

A review of Premier League Referees. Video Credit: Goal Gossip

The Premier League is one of the most-watched football leagues in the world. Barely a weekend goes by without fans talking about referring decisions. The addition of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has further polarised the debate. 

The salary for a premier league referee depends on their experience level. Those at the top get a basic salary plus a retainer, while those at the bottom are paid on a per-match basis determined by their football associations.

What are the numbers? According to Goal, a premier league referee gets as much as £1150 per game and as much as £70,000 to £200,000 per year. Additionally, they get a retainer of between £38,500 and £42,000.

Some of the highest-earning premier league referees with annual basic pay of £200,000 include: 

Assistant referees collect an annual pay of around £30,000 and a match fee of around £850, the same amount that a VAR earns per match.

Referees working in the Championship are in the same ballpack but earn less per match, £600. 

The Champions League offers higher wages, particularly for elite officials. They pocket up to £7500 per match with the assistant getting £2,000 and VAR £750.

Second development referees make £5000 per game, assistants make £1500 and VAR £600 while the bottom level gets £750 per match with assistants getting £250.

Around Europe, match officials are paid on a per-game basis. 

  • Spain offers the highest amount of £5,200.
  • In Germany, the figure stands at £3159.
  • In Italy, referees get £3000 per match.
  • In France and Portugal, officials part with £2,400 and £1000.

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NBA Referees 

Across Sports: How Much Do Referees Make?
An NBA Referee with the ball. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-2.0

It’s no secret that NBA referees make much less than the players. Like any other officiating job, they are under pressure to make the right calls and for all their troubles, they earn a decent wage. 

The average salary of an NBA referee ranges between $180,000 and $550,000 depending on the level of experience, type of matches officiated and job description. Entry-level referees make around $600 per game which translates to $250,000 in the regular season. The figures for top-level NBA officials are much more desirable.

A senior official, usually having three to five years of experience, rakes in up to $3,500 per game and about $500,000 per year. They have a chance to bump up their pay in the postseason games where they earn around $5,000 per game. 

On top of their pay, they enjoy benefits such as retirement packages, travel expenses, insurance and others. 

Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) referees make much less because of the gulf between the men’s and the women’s games. Per game, they make $425 and $180,000 annually. 

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How Much Do NFL Referees Take Home?

Across Sports: How Much Do Referees Make?
NFL Referee during a game. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-2.0

The official figures for NFL referee’s salaries remain undisclosed and therefore, the figures used here are estimates. We all know that the NFL is a money-making machine, but how much do the officials get?

Like many other sports, referees’ pay in the NFL depends on their experience, role and seniority. As of their 2019 Collective Bargaining Agreement, the average NFL referee’s salary stands at $205,000, which is about $12,000 per game, for a 19-season game. 

The highest-paid NFL referees include:

  • Walt Anderson – $250,000.
  • Brad Allen – $250,000.
  • Craig Wrolstad – $250,000.
  • Tony Corrente – $230,000.
  • Mark Steinkerchner – $205,000.

One thing to keep in mind is that the NFL considers referees as part-time workers and thus receives no benefits. That said, they have a 401k savings plan to which they can contribute part of their net earnings. 

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What about female officials? Well, the annual average salary of a female NFL official is $75,000. The highest-earning is Sarah Thomas who is the first woman to be hired as a full-time official. She makes $250,000 per year and between $4,000 and $5,000 per game. 

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How Much Do Super Bowl Referees Earn?

The Super Bowl is arguably one of the biggest sporting events globally. As such, it is the greatest honour for any NFL official to work in the game. For that, they have a chance to make an average of $40,000 and $50,000.

NHL Referees

Referees in the National Hockey League (NHL) earn competitive wages. They make as much as $165,000 and $400,000 per year, which is anything between $1,500 and $3,000 per game. 

A linesman’s salary is lower than that of a referee. They make between $110,000 and $235,000 per year. 

Apart from these, there are other officials in and around the building when an NHL game is going on. Obviously, they’ll earn way less but should they get involved in the game, their pay shoots up. 

Standby referees earn $1000 and $2750 if they get involved in the game, and linesmen $650 and $1775 for involvement.

Like the NBA and NFL, NHL referees earn more for officiating post-season games. For every round worked during the Stanley Cup playoffs, a referee takes home $27,000 and a linesman $17,250.

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WWE Referees

WWE referee’s salary. Video Credit: Evolution Data 

Referring in a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) match is a risky affair as you can be on the receiving end of a player’s anger. So how much do they make for taking to the ring?

Elite referees in WWE take home an annual salary of between $300,000 to $500,000 and a match bonus of $5,000. Rookie officials are on $800 per match and $150,000 per year whilst female officials get $180,000 per year and $1,000 per match. 

How Much Do Boxing Referees Make?

The amount of money a referee makes in boxing varies depending on the level of the bout they are officiating. A world-class bout with a global audience will mean higher pay and an undercard one means lower wage. 

Experience also matters. Professional referees get contracts and generally earn more from promoters than rookies. Referees can also earn through a pay-per-view system.

Rough estimates indicate that a pro referee in boxing earns around £2,500 per fight but this figure can be higher depending on the profile of a match. When paid according to PPV, they bag around $25,000. All these rounds off their annual earnings to about $500,000

Low-level referees get £350 per fight and female officials get anything between $600 per match and a $12,000 annual pay. 

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Referees

UFC Referees. Video Credit: Martial Lore

Referee salaries in the UFC are determined by the level of the match official, the profile of the fight and other bonuses. 

On average, a professional referee earns $2,500 per match which might go up depending on the status of the bout and around $400,000 annually. They can also cash in an additional $10,000 from PPV. 

An amateur referee is paid $500 for every fight and a female official gets around $1000 per match, $80,000 per year and $10,000 in PPV.

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United States Football League (USFL) Referees Earnings

Players in the USFL are entitled to the same amount of money. Players who stay active throughout the season earn $4500 per game, which amounts to $45,000 per season. 

Any player listed in a USFL squad earns $1,500 per week and $15,000 per season. During their stay in camp, each player gets $600 every week.

Winning comes with its perks. A player on a winning team earns $850 and for the championship, that figure shoots to $10,000.  

A referee’s job isn’t the most glamorous but it’s crucial because they make the most important decisions in a game. How much they make is dependent on several factors and it’s good that their employers are giving them a decent wage.

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