No sport can be played without the guidance and decision of the referee. He is known by other titles, like umpire, judge, timekeeper, etc., and ensures that the game is free of foul play. His job is not solely limited to showing red and green flags, but encompasses a host of responsibilities depending on the sport. In recent years, many aspirants have begun to consider the profession of a referee as an esteemed one. In fact, according to recent trends, referees are handsomely paid, and this is a driving factor for many people to opt for this challenging profession; challenging in the perspective that referees work on contractual basis, which requires that they have another source of income. This profession is a mixed bag of positives and negatives.
- The image of a referee conjured up in everyone's minds is that of a man in a sports outfit, running around the field and blowing the whistle. In essence though, he ensures that the spirit of the game is always maintained.
- He also resolves the disagreements and arguments between the players.
- He makes sure that no conflict leads to a serious breach of disciplinary laws and rules.
- He maintains the guidelines and other rules and regulations of the game.
- He is responsible for addressing any event that happens on the field during the game.
- He has the right to postpone or terminate the match on accounts of valid reason.
- He can take decisions regarding any misbehavior committed by a players on the field and can dismiss the player for that match.
- He also needs to check out the equipment used in the game to make sure that the standard rules are followed.
On an average, referees apparently earn between USD 200 to USD 1,000 per game, depending on their level of experience. Since they earn on a contractual basis, one cannot compute a median annual salary. The salary varies widely with the tournament. A rough estimate is enlisted below.
Major League Baseball (MLB)
- As a part of the MLB, your schedule will be even more hectic than usual, with 162 matches scheduled per season.
- Reliable statistics state that the salary of a referee in the MLB starts with more than USD 110,000 for the entire season. Senior referees may earn more than USD 300,000.
- Travel and other living expenses are generally provided, along with the benefits of a 4-week paid vacation.
- The major league apparently has 68 such umpires, who work in groups of 4 each.
- On the contrary, in the minor league, the referee with the maximum experience earns between USD 2,500 to USD 3,500 per month.
- Umpires of the minor league matches in smaller cities earn between USD 2,000 to USD 2,500.
Major League Soccer (MLS)
- Four levels of experience are considered in the MLS for a salary range. These levels are decided based in the number of matches the referee has worked in.
- Reportedly, referees at level 4 are expected to have refereed up to 20 matches, the ones at level 3 are expected to have refereed between 20 to 40 matches, level 2 demands an experience of 40 to 75 matches, while level 1 requires an experience of more than 75 matches.
- Accordingly, referees at level 4 earn around USD 800 per game, which increases to more than USD 950 for level 3. Level 2 referees are paid more than USD 1,100, while those at level 1 earn more than USD 1,300.
- Referees have to claim travel and living expenses in the MLS.
- In the final stages of the game, the salary of referees is reportedly increased; they may be paid between USD 3,000 to USD 4,000.
National Basketball Association (NBA)
- The NBA comprises 30 teams per season, with 82 games per team.
- According to reliable sources, at an entry-level, referees of the NBA earn around USD 200,000 on an annual basis, and around USD 2000 per game.
- Seniors earn more than USD 3,500 per match and a median, annual salary of around USD 600,000.
National Hockey League (NHL)
- For some reason, there has been a general perception that referees in hockey are not sufficiently compensated; the truth is far from this assumption though.
- As of 2015, NHL games have 2 referees and 2 linesmen.
- Recent statistics reveal that the referees are paid between USD 1,500 to USD 2,500 per game, which equates to an average salary between USD 115,000 to USD 225,000.
- Linesmen (assistants if referees) are reported to make between USD 70,000 to USD 120,000, based on experience. Experienced linesmen make more than USD 160,000.
National Football League (NFL)
- NFL referees are paid between USD 2,500 to USD 3,000 per game.
- As of 2015, they are reportedly paid a median salary of USD 170,000, which is expected to rise up to USD 205,000 by 2019.
- At an entry-level, they are paid around USD 80,000, while at the senior level, they are paid more than USD 180,000.
- Unfortunately, they receive no health benefits or paid vacations.
To earn these salaries, you have to be highly qualified and experienced. The initial years may be rough, but eventually, you will get to the pedestal of the high-salaried professionals. Good decision-making skills and a strong personality are the attributes that one must have to become a referee. Nowadays, owing to the extreme competition and professionalism, referees end up in controversies for some decisions. You have to take it as a part and parcel of the job. The career opportunities in this field are very good; you will be allowed to officiate at international and world-class matches.