Saturday, 20 Jul 2024

How Much Do Soccer Referees Make?

Soccer Referee

Referees play a crucial role in soccer matches, with important decisions still relying on human judgment despite the use of technology. The question then arises: how much do soccer referees earn? At the lowest level, referees may earn just above the minimum wage for recreational and kids’ matches. However, seasoned referees officiating in top European leagues, the Champions League, major cups, the Olympics, and the World Cup can earn close to $100,000.

Amateur Referee Opportunities

Soccer is played at various levels, creating a constant demand for referees. At the lowest level, refereeing is often seen as a side hustle. Remuneration can range from minimum wage to $25 per hour for lower-tier matches. Individuals who enjoy the game or seek extra income often seize these opportunities. The advantage of these lower-level refereeing gigs is that an official license may not always be required. As long as the referee has a basic understanding of the game and ensures fairness, their presence is preferable to having no referee at all.

Aspiring referees interested in officiating at higher levels should undergo training and certification. Even world-class soccer players would need to be certified to secure jobs beyond the lowest levels. While training requires an investment, it opens the doors to better earning potential.

Competitive Youth Leagues, High School Matches & More

Amateur Referee

In competitive youth leagues, high school matches, and similar levels, leagues typically require licensed referees. Clubs or schools might have a set group of referees they prefer to hire, ensuring some stability throughout the season. The pay at this level is slightly higher, but not significantly so, with rates often not surpassing $35 per hour. Consequently, most referees earn less than $70 per match.

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One of the challenges at this level is that the pay may not adequately compensate for the stress faced by players, coaches, and families involved. Although it may not be the highest level of play, many individuals aspire to progress further. Intensity can quickly escalate, leading to burnout among referees.

College & Low-Level Professional Referees

Soccer Referees

Refereeing at the college and low-level professional ranks is typically part-time work. The limited number of opportunities during the season, often a few games per week, translates to modest weekly earnings for referees, often amounting to a few hundred dollars. This is insufficient to support a typical lifestyle. Referees at this level face high stress due to the players’ aspirations to break through and secure lucrative contracts. Refereeing in feeder systems to higher-paying opportunities offers the best prospects. Referees who invest time and effort are recognized and rewarded accordingly.

High-Level Domestic Leagues & International Club Competitions

Red Card

Becoming a referee in one of the top leagues worldwide is the ultimate goal for individuals pursuing this career. Top leagues, such as the Premier League, offer significant compensation, with referees earning between £75,000 and £100,000 annually. The Premier League employs a unique payment structure, combining a retainer with payment for each match officiated, based on experience. Although the per-match fee may be slightly lower compared to other top leagues like La Liga and Bundesliga, referees ultimately earn similar amounts. Assistant referees receive reduced pay, usually around half of what the head referee makes. However, in some leagues, assistant referees make only a third of the head referee’s salary.

While some referees still hold other jobs during the offseason, most focus on refereeing full-time. It takes years of experience and dedication to reach these top leagues, which makes securing these positions highly competitive. Once referees reach this level, they are continuously evaluated to maintain the highest standards.

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World Cup Referees

Participating in the World Cup, the premier soccer event, is the pinnacle of success for referees. Qualifying for the World Cup is extremely challenging, as referees must be at least 25 years old and hold a FIFA referee Grade 1 certification. Currently, there are fewer than ten referees in the United States who meet these requirements. FIFA selects referees from different countries to ensure diverse talent representation.

World Cup referees receive substantial compensation, with recent tournaments offering payments of $50,000 or more for the entire event. Additionally, referees enjoy full accommodations and other benefits while spending a few weeks at the World Cup.

Tough Requirements To Reach The Highest Paying Referee Jobs


To keep up with the level of play, soccer referees must maintain excellent physical shape. It is rare to see referees older than 50 at the professional level, as FIFA officials must retire before turning 45. In some domestic leagues, referees must also be proficient in certain languages to effectively communicate with players and coaches. International matches and World Cups strive to have referees proficient in various languages for the benefit of all parties involved.

Is It Ultimately Worth Refereeing In Soccer?

Refereeing soccer, like any job, has both pros and cons. Most referees enter the profession due to their passion for the game. For some, refereeing serves as a side gig, while others aspire to reach the highest levels. Referees must have thick skin, as they are often blamed for controversial calls. However, for those who want to stay involved in sports, refereeing offers an excellent opportunity, with a continuous influx of new referees looking to join the ranks.

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Q: How much do soccer referees make at the lowest level?
A: At the lowest level, referees can earn just above the minimum wage for recreational and kids’ matches.

Q: How much can seasoned referees earn in top European leagues?
A: Seasoned referees in top European leagues, as well as the Champions League, major cups, the Olympics, and the World Cup, can come close to earning $100,000.

Q: Do referees need an official license to officiate at lower levels?
A: In some cases, referees can officiate lower-level matches without an official license as long as they possess a basic understanding of the game and maintain fairness.

Q: What is the payment structure for referees in the Premier League?
A: The Premier League offers referees a retainer plus payment for each match based on experience, resulting in similar overall earnings compared to other top leagues.

Q: How much do assistant referees earn?
A: Assistant referees generally receive reduced pay, usually half of what the head referee makes.

Q: What are the requirements to become a World Cup referee?
A: To become a World Cup referee, individuals must be at least 25 years old and hold a FIFA referee Grade 1 certification.

Q: Do referees need to be proficient in certain languages to officiate domestic league matches?
A: In some domestic leagues, proficiency in specific languages is required to facilitate communication between players, coaches, and referees.


Soccer refereeing offers various opportunities at different levels, with potential earnings ranging from minimum wage to six-figure salaries. Referees operating in high-stress environments face constant scrutiny but enjoy staying involved in the sport they are passionate about. Becoming a referee requires dedication, training, and obtaining the necessary certifications, but the rewards can be significant for those who persevere. For more information about soccer refereeing, visit Movin993.