What’s the average NFL referee salary, and are refs paid more for the Super Bowl?

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It’s well known that the National Football League’s star athletes make tens of millions of dollars a year. NFL referee salaries, on the other hand, are more elusive. Certainly, they earn considerably less than the players, despite the tremendous amount of pressure they’re under to make game-deciding calls that could influence the outcome of the 2024 Super Bowl. 

Referee pay is governed by a collective bargaining agreement between the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) — the union that represents them — and the NFL.

The latest contract, signed by both parties in September 2019, is effective through May 2026, but is not publicly available.

Previous agreements between the union and the league, however, provide a sense of how much the officials charged with adjudicating and enforcing the rules of the game earn for their work.

Not surprisingly, it pales in comparison to the players with whom they share the field.

How much do NFL referees make?

How much does an NFL referee make? In 2019, under the agreement that was to expire in May 2020, game officials earned an average salary of $205,000, according to a post on the latest NFL referee salary agreement from Football Zebras, a site focused on football referees. In 2011, under the preceding contract, officials earned $149,000, on average. That means they received a nearly 38% bump in pay from one contract to the next. 

NFL referees typically officiate 19 games per season, including preseason matchups and clinics

Do NFL referees get paid more money for the Super Bowl?

A Super Bowl referee’s pay is supplementary to a regular season NFL football referee salary. Refs assigned to playoff games and the Super Bowl “are paid from a separate pool” on top of their regular salaries, according to the site. 

NFLRA executive director Scott Green did not immediately respond to CBS MoneyWatch’s request for comment on the current contract between the union and the NFL. 

The NFL also did not respond to CBS MoneyWatch’s request for comment on referee pay.

To be an NFL game official, candidates must have at least 10 years’ experience officiating football games, according to the league’s website. That should include at least five years refereeing “major college games.” 

The NFL runs a referee development program, called the Mackie Development Program, that provides a pathway for college football refs to step up to the national league. 

Program participants attend training camps, officiate NFL preseason games and, upon completion, move up to the NFL if they are deemed fit to officiate at the highest level of the sport. 

More than 120 officials in black-and-white shirts are currently working as referees, umpires or judges in the NFL.

Megan Cerullo

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Megan Cerullo is a New York-based reporter for CBS MoneyWatch covering small business, workplace, health care, consumer spending and personal finance topics. She regularly appears on CBS News Streaming to discuss her reporting.

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