National Football League

Here's How Much NFL Referees Get Paid

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After an unusual 2020 NFL season, Super Bowl LV is slated for this Feb. 7, and players, coaches and sponsors are set for a big pay day. Last year, the winners of the Super Bowl took home $124,000 apiece, while their opponents earned $62,000.

But while the players may be the main attraction of the big game, in the past, referees have also garnered attention.

During Sunday night's NFC Championship Game between Green Bay and Tampa Bay, Packers fans and players critiqued referees for what some felt was inconsistent calling.

And during the 2019 NFC Championship Game between the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, Saints fans became outraged over the referees' decision not to call pass interference on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman after he hit Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis early.

Controversies such as these often spark interest in how referees are selected, trained and compensated. According to the NFL's website, the organization employs 121 officials who are evaluated by the NFL's Officiating Department each week. The organization reports that each game averages around 154 plays and game officials are typically accurate on 98.9% percent of calls.

CBS reports that the average age of these 121 officials is about 51 years old and while down judge Sarah Thomas is set to become the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl this year, the profession remains heavily dominated by men.

A referee watches as Tommylee Lewis #11 of the New Orleans Saints drops a pass broken up by Nickell Robey-Coleman #23 of the Los Angeles Rams during the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Chris Graythen | Getty Images
A referee watches as Tommylee Lewis #11 of the New Orleans Saints drops a pass broken up by Nickell Robey-Coleman #23 of the Los Angeles Rams during the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Money reports that NFL officials in 2019 made about $201,000 a year, and that they receive a defined-contribution 401(k) plan with an annual deposit of $18,000 and a partial matching contribution. (CNBC Make It contacted the NFL for confirmation of these figures but did not receive a response.)

These earnings are significantly higher than what most professional referees make. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the median annual wage for umpires, referees and other sports officials was $28,550 in May of 2019.

The BLS notes that "most umpires, referees and other sports officials are paid on a per-game basis. Pay typically rises as the level of competition increases," and that the lowest 10 percent of employees in this occupation earned less than $18,310 while the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,490.

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