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Premier League Referee Salary: How Much Do PL Referees Get Paid?

Premier League Referee Salary: How Much Do PL Referees Get Paid?

Refereeing in the Premier League comes with a huge amount of responsibility. Every game in England's top division is placed under a microscope and given tons of press coverage, particularly when the league's biggest clubs face up against each other. And since the introduction of Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) into the league, the level of pressure on referees has been ramped up even further. In recent months, experienced pundits such as Jermaine Jenas have caused a storm by posting fiery criticisms of individual refereeing performances on social media and thereby fanning the flames of fan anger toward officials.

As a result of all this pressure, many people assume that the job of the referee in soccer must be a pretty well-compensated one. In many ways, officiating at the top level can sometimes seem like a thankless task, with refs having to deal with an unprecedented level of abuse from players and coaches and pressure from the sidelines. So how much do referees earn per match? And how close does their annual salary get to the wages distributed to the players they're presiding over? 

In this article, these are the questions we're going to be answering. We'll give you a brief guide to which individuals are currently refereeing in the Premier League and we'll explore what it takes for a match official to work their way up to this level. Finally, we'll answer the ultimate question of 'How much do EPL refs make?' and we'll examine how top flight salaries compare to those offered in England's lower divisions and on the continent.

How To Become A Referee In Premier League 

It's not easy to become a referee at any professional level, but making your way up to the Premier League is a particularly impressive feat. In order to officiate at the top level, you'll have to spend years steadily moving up from grassroots level and through the lower divisions.

The first step is to become a Level 7 referee by completing the FA Referees Course with your local County FA. After passing this initial target, budding officials can then work their way up the Levels from 7 to 4, typically spending a season at each level and progressing upward after completing a programme of training, examinations and match observations. 

Progressing through from Level 4 to levels 3, 2B and 2A is more difficult; here, club and observer marks will contribute to a merit table that plays a big deal in sanctioning any promotions, and it's a big deal moving from the National League system (Level 2A) to the highest level of officiating in England, Level 1.

This is a small minority of referees who officiate in the English Football League (EFL) and English Premier League. To get to this level, you need to successfully complete a rigorous interview process, as well as passing the aforementioned observations and examinations.

At Level 1, referees are organised by Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), a body formed in 2001 to preside over the country's full-time match officials. Currently, PGMOL's Chief Refereeing Officer is Howard Webb, a long-time Premier League who retired in 2014. In the next section of this article, we'll spend some time exploring his team of referees for the 2023/24 campaign.

How Many Referees Are There In The Premier League?

At the start of the 2023/24 season, PGMOL had a list of 20 confirmed referees for the upcoming Premier League season. This list includes well-known names such as Michael Oliver, Anthony Taylor and Stuart Attwell (the league's most experienced ref, having made his PL debut in 2008).

Also on the roster are some less long-serving officials such as Michael Salisbury and John Brooks, who both joined the league toward the back end of 2021.

Over the course of the 2023/24 campaign, the list of official Premier League referees has been altered with two high-profile additions. Firstly, experienced EFL official Sam Allison became the Premier League's first Black referee since the retirement of the long-serving Uriah Rennie in 2008, when he presided over Sheffield United vs Luton Town on Boxing Day 2023.

Then, in March 2024, Sunny Singh Gill made history by becoming the first British South Asian to take charge of a match in the Premier League. Just like Allison, he was looking after a Luton match, this time in London for a fixture against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

If you'd like to read a more in-depth guide to the referees working in the English top flight right now, check out our guide to every Premier League official for the 2023/24 season.

How Much Do Premier League Referees Get Paid?

Without a fair salary, it would be unfair to expect Premier League referees to absorb the levels of criticism, abuse and pressure they do. And thankfully for England's elite-level match officials, the annual wage for a top ref in the Premier League is pretty decent.

According to figures released by Goal in 2021, every EPL official will receive an annual salary, paid to them regardless of how many matches they take control over. This Premier League referee salary will be between £38,500 and £42,000, varying slightly from individual to individual based on their level of experience.

On top of that basic salary, referees in the Prem will also receive an extra bit of cash for every league match they preside over. 2021 reports suggested that this fee was £1,150 per match, but since then it appears to have risen to £1,500 (this is presumably due to inflation and the ever-growing wealth at the top of English football). Either way, this fee per game can significantly increase the overall yearly wage.

In total, between salary and match payments, a typical Premier League referee salary to around £70,000 each year. Evidently, total salaries can vary depending on experience and the amount of matches covered; according to GiveMeSport, experienced English referee Mike Dean was pocketing as much as £200,000 annually before his retirement in 2022.

How Much Do VAR and EFL officials earn?

The fee per match for an Assistant Referee or a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the Premier League is £850, just over half of what the lead referee will earn (according to The Sun).

The money is less because the scrutiny and responsibility is less intense; that being said, in the modern game VAR officials regularly have the spotlight cast over their work, with every decision made in the VAR rooms analysed in detail by pundits and commentators. If you're interested in how this development is impacting the game, check out our article on whether VAR is improving professional soccer.

Meanwhile, the amount of money earned by match referees drops slightly when you move below the top flight of English football. EFL referees will be on the same basic salary as Premier League officials but their bonus match fee will be significantly lower, coming in at around £600.

Lower down in the semi-professional leagues, refs will typically receive a match fee of £80 and will also have their travel expenses covered. However, there's no doubt that there's a big gap between the money available for top-level refs and those at the bottom. Which brings us to one final question...

How Much Money Do Referees In The Champions League Make?

Only the best referees from each European country will be chosen by UEFA to take charge of matches in the Champions League, the continent's highest-level knockout competition. According to reports, Champions League wages can vary immensely; for the lower-level group stage matches between less glamorous teams, the fee for referees can be as little as £750.

However, for the most high-profile clashes between giants of the European game, refs can earn as much as £7,500, a staggering fee that shows just how important it is to have the highest-quality game officials in charge of the continent's biggest fixtures.

In order to judge how much a ref should be paid in the UCL, there is a tier system that sees each game ranked from Third Tier to Elite Tier depending on the size of the clubs and the stage of the competition.

It's also worth noting that it's not just the Champions League that sees refs on the continent bringing in more cash than their English counterparts. While a Premier League ref might typically receive £70,000 per year — significantly more than the median average salary in the UK, which is around £28,000 before tax — officials in other European nations can earn even more than that. Serie A refs get a basic salary of £48,000 and their individual match fees can be as much as £3,300. In Spain, referee fees are even higher, with the annual salary for La Liga refs set at a whopping £130,000, and match bonuses worth £3,600. This means that in total, an average La Liga referee will easily earn more than £200,000 in a season. Tasty.

If you'd like to find out more about the job of the referee and how these football officials are able to command those wages, check out our in-depth guide to the key match officials in soccer.