How Much Do NFL Referees Earn Per Game? A Comprehensive Insight

The NFL (National Football League) is a multi-billion-dollar industry. From players to coaches, everyone involved earns their fair share of this enormous pie. But have you ever wondered about the earnings of those who officiate the games, ensuring fairness and upholding the rules? We’re talking about the NFL referees. Let’s delve deep into their pay structure and understand how much these crucial game-day officials make per game.


The role of an NFL referee is undeniably significant. They are responsible for understanding and enforcing a vast and ever-changing rulebook, managing game flow, and ensuring player safety. These tasks demand expertise, agility, and impeccable judgment. Given their importance, it’s only fair to assume that their compensation would reflect the intensity and significance of their role.

A General Overview

The salary of an NFL referee can range considerably based on several factors, such as experience, rank, and game significance. For instance, rookie referees earn much less than those who’ve been in the game for decades. Similarly, officials supervising playoff matches receive more than those managing regular season games.

Earnings Breakdown

Experience Level Average Pay per Game
Rookie $4,000 – $5,000
3-5 Years $6,000 – $8,000
6-10 Years $8,000 – $10,000
10+ Years $10,000 – $12,000
Playoff Games Additional 50% Bonus
Super Bowl $20,000 – $25,000

Factors Impacting Pay

  1. Experience: As depicted in the table above, experience plays a critical role in the pay structure. A rookie or a less-experienced referee may earn between $4,000 to $5,000 per game. This amount gradually increases as they accumulate experience and climb up the ranks.
  2. Postseason Games: The stakes are higher during the playoffs. Given the intensified scrutiny and pressure, referees officiating these matches receive an additional 50% bonus over their usual pay.
  3. Super Bowl: The Super Bowl is the grandest stage of them all. Refereeing such a significant event naturally comes with its perks. Officials in the Super Bowl can expect to pocket between $20,000 to $25,000 for that single game.
  4. Position: The NFL has different referee roles, such as head referee (or referee), umpire, down judge, line judge, field judge, side judge, and back judge. Each position has its complexities, and while all roles are important, the head referee often earns slightly more due to the added responsibilities.
  5. Off-the-Field Duties: Referees’ duties aren’t restricted to game day. They also partake in training programs, review games, and attend workshops. These tasks can sometimes factor into their compensation.

Annual Earnings

Considering an average of 15 games (excluding the postseason) an official supervises in a season, even a rookie referee stands to make at least $60,000 from games alone. Seasoned referees, with their higher per-game rates and potential for playoff matches, can push their annual earnings from officiating to six figures.

However, it’s essential to note that most NFL referees consider this a part-time job. Many have full-time professions outside the NFL, making their earnings from refereeing a lucrative side income.

Read More: NFL Referee Salary

Leave a Comment