How Much Do Pro Sports Referees Make?

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Whether you want to become a professional referee or are just curious, here’s a look at how much referees make in each sport and league.

American Football

National Football League

NFL referees make an estimated average salary of $205,000 per year. Pay depends on experience and the position the official works.

The salary for NFL refs is a combination of a guaranteed salary and fees per game. Bonuses for working the Super Bowl are rumored to be as high as $50,000.


Major League Baseball

The minimum salary for a Major League Baseball umpire is $150,000 as a rookie. Pay increases with experience and for crew chiefs. The highest paid umpires earn around $450,000.


National Basketball Association

NBA officials are salaried employees under the NBA. Salaries range from between $150,000 to $550,000 depending on experience.


National Hockey League

NHL officials receive a salary based on experience plus bonuses for playoff games. You can view a copy of an old CBA to see how the NHL referee pay structure works.

Professional NHL referees currently earn between $165,000 to $360,000 per year. Linesmen earn between $110,000 to $235,000 per year.

American Hockey League

The AHL ref salary is between $75,000 to $100,000 per year. Linesmen earn between $50,000 to $60,000 per year.

Minor league officials called up to the NHL receive per-game payments or part-time salary according to the NHL CBA.


World Cup

Referee pay for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar hasn’t been publicly released.

In the 2018 World Cup in Russia, referees made a base fee of $70,000 for attending the tournament and training events leading up to it plus $3,000 for each game they worked.

In the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, referees made $50,000. In the 2006 World Cup, referees made $35,000.

Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer referees are full-time or part-time employees of the Professional Referee Organization. Referees work under a collective bargaining agreement with PRO and MLS. The terms of the CBA aren’t public.

Referees receive a mix of games fees and salaries. Estimated for the top earning referees are around $55,000 per year.

USL League Two

USL League Two referees are contractors paid per game. The pay is $100 for the center referee, $70 for the assistant referees, and $30 for the fourth official. Referees also receive reimbursements for designated travel expenses.

How easy is it to become a pro sports referee?

The odds of becoming a referee in pro sports are similar to becoming a professional player. It takes a lot of time and training, and most people don’t make it. While it can be hard to believe at times, the people you see on TV really are the best of the best.

Thanks for reading.

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