With Super Bowl LIII slated for this Sunday, players, coaches and sponsors are set for a big pay day. Last year, the winners of the Super Bowl took home $112,000 apiece, while their opponents earned $56,000.
But while the players may be the main attraction of the big game, this year the referees have also been getting some attention. During the NFC Championship Game between the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, fans became outraged over the referees' decision not to call pass interference on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman after he hit Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis early.
With the score tied and less than two minutes remaining, many believe that the Saints would have advanced to the Super Bowl to play the Patriots had the refs made the call against Robey-Coleman.
The controversy has sparked new interest in how referees are selected, trained and compensated. According to the NFL's website, the organization employs 121 officials who are evaluated by the NFL's Officiating Department each week. The organization reports that each game averages around 155 plays and game officials are typically accurate between 95 and 97 percent of calls.
CBS reports that the average age of these 121 officials is about 51 years old, and that they earn between $4,000 and $10,000 a game.
Money reports that NFL officials in 2019 make about $201,000 a year, and that they receive a defined-contribution 401(k) plan with an annual deposit of $18,000 and a partial matching contribution. (CNBC Make It contacted the NFL for confirmation of these figures but did not receive a response.)
These earnings are significantly higher than what most professional referees make. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the median annual wage for umpires, referees and other sports officials was $26,800 in May of 2017.
The BLS notes that "most umpires, referees and other sports officials are paid on a per-game basis. Pay typically rises as the level of competition increases," and that the lowest 10 percent of employees in this occupation earned less than $18,360 while the highest 10 percent earned more than $56,100.
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