How Much Do Professional Referees Get Paid Per Game?

Amid the high-stakes competition in professional sports are the men and women in black and white who enforce rules and maintain continuity in the game. In each of the professional sports leagues, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball, referees are paid very well per game. Depending on the sport, some referees are paid higher per game salaries than others.


NFL Referees

Unlike referees in the NBA, NHL and MLB, NFL referees work on a part-time basis. They work a total of 20 games including the preseason. Top referees and their crews have an opportunity to earn additional money by working the playoffs and the Super Bowl for which they make an additional $11,900 at the time of publication. Though NFL referees earn lower yearly salaries than referees in the other major sports leagues, they actually earn a higher per game average. As of 2011, NFL referees were paid an average of around $70,000 per season. Starting officials earn $34,000 annually compared to $120,000 for officials with more than 20 years experience. Thus, NFL referees earn between approximately $2,100 and $7,500 per game.


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NBA Referees

According to, NBA referees earn an average salary between $100,000 and $300,000 annually as of 2011. Since NBA referees are full-time referees and work 82 games during the regular season, they earn approximately $3,300 per game. Per diem expenses for food and travel expenses are paid by the league.

MLB Referees

According to the MLB website, the yearly salary for MLB referees, or umpires, is between $84,000 and $300,000 as of 2011. Referees work a total of 162 games. As such their per-game salary ranges between approximately $500 and $1,800 per game. Additionally, they receive four weeks of paid vacation, hotel accommodations and first-class air tickets.


NHL Referees

Similar to the NBA, NHL referees officiate an 82-game schedule. According to, NHL referees earn a yearly salary between $110,000 and $255,000. Wes McCauley is one of the top referees in the NHL and has worked several Stanley Cup Finals games. In a May 2011 article for, NHL referee Wes McCauley states that he works three to four games per week. Based on the higher salary scale of $255,000 he would earn approximately $3,100 per game. The per game salary scale for NHL referees is between approximately $1,300 and $3,100 as of 2011.