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Published: Feb 03, 2019 3 min read
Cowboys Giants Football, East Rutherford, USA - 30 Dec 2018
A referee gestures during the second half of an NFL football game between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, in East Rutherford, N.J Cowboys Giants Football, East Rutherford, December 30, 2018.
Bill Kostroun—AP/REX/Shutterstock

Forget the athletes and ads — all eyes will be on the referees at Super Bowl 2019 on Sunday.

After a missed call by referees prevented the New Orleans Saints from advancing to the Super Bowl, the seven officials working the NFL title game are far from being on the proverbial sidelines. Who are the referees for Super Bowl 2019? Refs in most sports probably prefer that few people know their names, but on Super Bowl Sunday will be scrutinizing John Parry, Fred Bryan, Edgar Camp, Jeff Bergman, Steve Zimmer, Eugene Hall and Terrence Miles as they take the field alongside the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots.

“All of these officials that are here have earned that through their talents and the pressure that comes with working this game,” former NFL referee Gene Steratore told Sports Illustrated. “There’s always a microscope on you.”

Luckily, that microscope likely comes with a six-figure paycheck.

According to a collective bargaining agreement the NFL Referees Association reached in 2012, the average NFL referee salary is $205,000 this year. That estimate for how much NFL referees make each year includes a base rate plus a certain amount of money per game.

Given that the Super Bowl is the biggest game of the year, it figures that it'd come with the biggest bonus for officials. But since the NFL doesn't publicize its pay rates, it's hard to say exactly how much Super Bowl 2019 referees make.

Back in 2001, the Washington Post reported that NFL referees made $11,900 for working the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, that's the most up-to-date confirmed figure out there. (Money previously calculated that modern Super Bowl bonuses for NFL referees are between $30,000 and $50,000, but that's only an estimate.)

Complicating things further is the fact that staffers at different levels likely earn different salaries.

Your shouts of "C'mon, ref!" are technically inaccurate, because there are about 120 officials on the current NFL roster with various titles: referee, umpire, down judge, line judge, field judge, side judge and back judge. Twenty-four of those officials work full-time on improving "the consistency, efficiency and accuracy of NFL officiating."

They, and the other officials, also get retirement perks.

Workers used to have a defined benefit plan, but that was phased out in the past few years. According to a news release, the league now has a defined contribution plan where it will contribute over $23,000 per person in 2019. The NFL also partially matches when officials make their own contributions to their 401(k)s.

In general, professional NFL referees should look elsewhere if they're hoping to make bank in sports. Officials in both the NBA and MLB earn more than their NFL counterparts.