How much do NFL referees make? (Updated 2021)

What is an NFL referee's salary, who is the highest-paid ref, and how much do they earn for officiating in the Super Bowl each year?

Being an NFL referee is a high-pressure job, but what is the salary they earn in return for the pressure they are put under on a weekly basis? In addition to an NFL referee’s salary, who is the highest-paid referee, and how much does a ref make if they are selected for the Super Bowl?

NFL referee salary per game

Officially, a referee’s salary is undisclosed but using expired CBAs the figure has been estimated. It has been calculated that an average NFL referee earned $205,000 in 2019. This was a huge increase in the amount earned before, which was closer to $150,000.

NFL referee salaries are not paid solely on a per-game basis. Referees are paid a flat fee per season, with a per-game amount on top. The reward is handsome for being selected to work a postseason game. A postseason game check is reportedly as much as double the in-season game rate.

It has been reported that the highest per-game salary for a referee is $1,500. However, reports on the amount vary from study to study.

Who is the highest-paid NFL referee?

The NFL referees who earned the highest reported salary for the 2020-2021 season were Walt Anderson and Brad Allen, while Sarah Thomas was the highest-paid female referee. However, their exact salaries have not been disclosed.

How much does a ref make in the Super Bowl?

The salary for an NFL ref in the postseason is significantly higher than what they earn in the season. One report indicated that the highest payment for the one-off game was $5,000. Furthermore, there have been reports of an NFL referee earning as much as $10,000 in total when selected to officiate the Super Bowl.

Are NFL referees full-time?

The NFL did experiment with making around 20% of its referees full-time league employees. However, that program was abandoned, and instead, all of the officials on the NFL officiating roster are part-time.

Referees have what is referred to as a dark period between the end of the season and the middle of May. That time and during the summer is when they typically focus on their other job. During the season, they are essentially considered full-time employees for the league.

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Each and every week, the decisions of an NFL referee draw the ire of fans and leave people wondering about the salary they are paid to make what is viewed as an incorrect call. However, the NFL reviews the performance of its referees regularly. Those results consistently find that the majority of the time, the NFL refs do a good job, demonstrating why they are paid a handsome salary.

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.


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