How Much Do Soccer Referees Get Paid? Worthy Wage

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Soccer referees sometimes get a hard time on the field with 22 testosterone-fueled players. Other times their job seems quite simple and enjoyable, although you do need to keep level-headed during the heated moments. Players, managers, and fans rarely give plaudits to the referee, is it worth it?

How Much Do Soccer Referees Get Paid?

The salary for a referee ranges from $27 to $50 per youth game. The MLS pays $900 per game and the highest-paid referees are in Spain, they get $6,354 per game!

During the financial year ended March 2018, United States Soccer generated just under three million dollars in referee registration and affiliation fees alone. The only sector which generated greater revenues for registration and affiliation was youth football in the United States.

That figure did not change from the 2017 financial year and is to be in the same region when the latest financial statements are published online.

Now that we know how many referees contribute to United States Soccer, in monetary terms, it might be prudent to establish what they get. United States Soccer spends about 4.5 million dollars on its referee program, which pales compared to the money which it spends on the management and the national team players. 

Major League Soccer Referees Pay

MLS referee

United States Soccer spends about 21 million dollars on management and about 71 million dollars on the national teams. There has been a considerable amount of debate around equality between the men’s and women’s games in the United States.

Perhaps the more pertinent discussion needs to center on the compensation of referees operating in the United States – and elsewhere in the world. As of 2019, United States Soccer has 15 refereeing grades.

We say because we are excluding the beach and indoor referee grades. Of particular interest to those of you reading this article are the top four levels. 

So, we have already established that United States Soccer has a restricted budget for its referee program but we will now also learn just how thankless a job it can be, even for those operating at the top level.

Referee Pay

Soccer Mom reports that the most qualified referees in the MLS only earn near $900 per game. It is also revealed that the most qualified assistant referees earn near $500 per game. It reports fourth officials operating at the top level to only make about $300 per game.

These figures are confirmed by Sapling which highlights that the rates for soccer referees experience a meaningful increase during the play-off stages of the MLS.

It is also worth noting that the better performing referees are the ones most likely to get additional earning opportunities during that phase of the MLS season. 

Referee Salary MLS
GameReferee Salary
MLS League$900
MLS Playoffs$1000
MLS Playoffs – 2 phase$1200
MLS Final$1500

Play-offs Pay

The figure for play-off referees is near $1,000 per game. That would apply for the first two phases of the play-off campaign. That figures increases to 1,200 dollars for the later stages of the play-off campaign.

The figure is increased once again for the MLS Cup game, which pays referees about $1,500. In the MLS season, soccer referees are also subjected to intense scrutiny and get rated on their performances. The top five performing referees in the MLS earn near 1, 500 dollars each. 

Those figures get lower, the lower the referee levels are. Another important consideration to make here is that many of the soccer referees operating in the United States are not on salaries or retainers.

Pay as you Ref

They only get compensated for the matches that they officiate. That is not at all unique to United States soccer though. Most of the referees operating in Europe’s big leagues – which are more lucrative than United States soccer for the moment – put their referees through the same level of uncertainty.

When you then consider the level of scrutiny that they subject referees too, both at the stadium and on the television set, it then forces one to question whether the trouble is worth it for the best soccer referees out there.

The jury is also out on the impact this will have on the integrity of the game in both the short and long term, in poorer leagues were a few extra bucks for two dodgy decisions will guarantee food on the table for your family.

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Referee Salary in Europe

yellow-card-soccer referee
European Referee Salary at a glance
LeagueSalary per game
La Liga – Spain$6,354
Bundesliga – Germany$3,851
Seria A – Italy$3,667
Ligue 1 – France$2.934
NOS – Portugal$1,222
Premier League – England$1,833
Champions League – Europe$855-$6,724

Soccer referees officiating in Spain are more valued than they are in other parts of the world from the salary stats from Goal.com.

Soccer Referee Pay FAQ

How Much Do La Liga Referees Get Paid?

Those who secure the opportunity to officiate in Spanish soccer earn about $6,354 per game. We are not claiming that this is the reason for the higher rate in Spain but for anybody who has followed Spanish soccer, the referee role of “protecting players” is a little more valued than elsewhere in Europe.

How Much Do Bundesliga Referees Get Paid?

Soccer referees operating in Germany earn about $3,851 per game. 

How Much Do Serie A Referees Get Paid?

Soccer referees operating in Italy earn in the region of $3,667.

How Much Do Ligue 1 Referees Get Paid? 

Soccer referees operating in France earn about $2,934 dollars per game.

How Much Premier League Referees Get Paid?

This might come as somewhat of a surprise to some but referees operating out of England do not earn a considerable amount per game and rank low by European standards.

However, there is a caveat here. The soccer referees in England get a yearly retainer. That is something quite unique to England. Soccer referees operating in England get paid $1,833 per game.

How Much Do Liga NOS Referees Get Paid?

Soccer referees operating out of Portugal earn near just $1,222 per game. That is without a yearly retainer either, which is low, for a league with quite some stature in Europe.

How Much Do Champions League Referees Get Paid?

Not that much more than the big leagues in Europe. The top Champions League soccer referees earn about $6,724. There are three tiers of referees operating on European soccer nights.

The rate per game we mentioned above is reserved for those operating within the elite group of European soccer referees.

The tier below them gets paid $4,645 per game. The soccer referees operating on the lowest Champions League tier earn about $855 per game, which is MLS referee salary territory.

Youth Referee Salary

AgeReferee SalaryAssistant Salary
under 19$50 $32
Under 16$50$32
Under 14$38$20
Under 12$32$16
Under 10$27$14
Under 8$27n/a

The figures from Bry Soccer could be different in your region, but it is a good guide to get an idea.

Pay & Referee’s Performance

Soccer referee with two players

Now that we have established how little most professional soccer referees earn, it would be prudent for authorities to test the impact this has on overall performance. When you consider the level of scrutiny that the top professional referees are subjected to, whether that be in broadcast studios or on the armchair in your lounge.

Few people interrogate this matter at length but a study at Citeseerx carried out some great research; On average a professional soccer league season lasts about ten months. Sometimes longer when continental competitions are taken into account.

As soccer referees get paid per game that they officiate, some secure short-term contracts, depending on the status and the region they come from.

We also, know that soccer referees always seem to dominate the discourse, regardless of the impact that they have had on the game. It is a universal disease!

One can only wonder if the improvement of referee’s employment terms would improve the standard of the officiating or do most soccer referees do this for the love of the game anyway?

Soccer Refereeing Facts: 1997-2009

  1. There were 11,184 soccer matches officiated by referees in England’s top two soccer tiers during that period.
  2. Most of the matches officiated were in the second tier of English soccer. There are more teams in that league.
  3. Most of the top soccer referees in England introduced to salaried contracts (yearly retainers) in 2001. That trend continues for the entire period under review.
  4. Some salaried soccer referees expected to officiate in the second tier of English soccer during the period under review.
  5. Of the 168 referees on the roster during the period under review, 45 expect to officiate soccer matches in both the top two tiers of English soccer.

Referees Salaries – The Verdict

There is compelling evidence to suggest that the standard of refereeing in the top tier of English soccer improved, after introducing salaried contracts for soccer referees in that country. Any structured salary and pay increase get better output from the workers.

It is satisfying and rewarding to get more than you expected. Whether it is for the love of the game or the rate of salary paid to referees, it is encouraging to see what a referee gets paid.

One or two days a week of actual refereeing does not sound too bad! For more useful guides, see the articles below or visit our home page.

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