Sports gets a lot of attention in America. It also drives a lot of flak and hate from the fans when you are an umpire or a referee who gave an unpopular decision. The top three sports in America are cash cows they milk at every opportunity. Some players are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But what do referees and umpires make in such a sport? Is the money good enough for them to be the unpopular face on the TV screen on a game night?
In this article, we will try to explore the finances of referees in different sports leagues.
A referee in the National Football League can earn anywhere between $25,000 to $70,000 per season. Although it is a one day a week gig, they have a lot of work cut out for the role. So even if they have a day job, they still need a lot of time and effort for the referee role. In most cases, NFL referees earn a lot more than 100k in their day jobs, so their earnings from Football makes them a well-paid part-timer.
In Major League Baseball (MLB), umpires earning starts at $120,000 if they are in the big league. Senior umpires can earn up to $300,000 in a year. But it is an all-round the year kind of job. They get to fly first class and get a lot of money for their travel expenses. If they work the full postseason, it can bring in an extra $20,000.
In the Minor League, a professional umpire makes about $1800 per month.
A National Basketball Association referee also earns in a similar level. An 82 game season can bring in anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000. But the topmost referees are said to be making about $550,000 a year.
At the college level, basketball referees make about $2000 per game and the season has about 70 games.
National Hockey League referees need a lot of stamina to keep up with all the skating. But it is a well-paid gig. A referee in NHL can make around $110,000 and $255,000 a season.
In Major League Soccer, referees make a lot less than the other big leagues. They average around $500 to $800 a game in a 24 game season. Assistant Referees earn much less. But the league also has four full-time referees who make about $40,000 to $60,000 in a year apart from their per game compensation. But refereeing in soccer is still worth a lot less than what their counterparts in the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB make.
In 2013, Little League referees were earning about $25,000 on average per year. Needless to say, the pay scale in the smaller leagues is paltry and is mostly considered to be a part-time job.
These numbers are from the US sports market. If you get out to the EU sports market, the numbers get even bigger. For example, a FIFA referee officiating a domestic league match makes about $260,000 a year. The highest earning referee in the soccer world makes $ 650,000-year officiating matches in Saudi Arabia.