With another round of UEFA Champions League matches this week, Business of Soccer kicks off a new series looking at “The Men in the Middle” of the world’s most popular sport. Bringing these profiles to you is resident ex-high school referee and Certified Public Accountant, Matt Terrill. Follow Matt on Twitter (@Matt_Terrill).
European football’s ever-increasing wealth and global appeal stems largely from its top continental tournament, the UEFA Champions League (UCL), which UEFA estimated would bring in $1.82m (€1.34B) in commercial revenue for 2012-13. We know payments to clubs continue to increase (estimated $11.7M / €8.6M to each group stage club this year), and provide a powerful incentive to clubs to qualify for the UCL each year. The continued growth in these payments is driven by increased revenue from broadcast rights and corporate sponsors. But how much of this wealth makes its way to the referees who often play such influential roles in the outcomes of the matches? Surprisingly, these elite European referees don’t see quite as much of that pot of cash as you might think. For each game, referees receive the following payments (higher amounts are for UCL from quarterfinals onward):
In addition to these match payments, UEFA referees also receive a €200 daily allowance for meals during their travels as well as a $272 (€200) one-time lump-sum to cover domestic travel expenses like visas, hotels before an early flight, transport to the airport, etc. It might be easy to key in on the numbers at the top of the chart and say, “who would complain about a paycheck of more than $6,000?” However, that pay rate is only for the small handful of Elite center referees, men who have worked for years through the levels in their home country associations to earn this status. In reality, most of the men in charge of Europe’s most prestigious matches, on which the fortunes of clubs turn, make little more than the average bi-monthly paycheck of a white-collar professional. In the case of fourth officials they make significantly less than this. And there are only a couple handfuls of Champions League match days each year. It is no wonder then, that nearly all of Europe’s top referees have other careers. Of course they do get an expenses-paid trip to a European destination, with 4-star accommodations and a front-row seat to the best soccer in Europe. But it still seems incongruous that matches with so much prize money at stake hinge on the decisions of referees making so little and willing to take the abuse of a stadium full of impassioned fans.
In later installments of this series, we will look at payments for officials in various leagues around the world and profile some of the men who take on this largely thankless job.
In the meantime, what do you think about how much UCL referees are paid? Would you do their job for that amount of money? Do the pay rates leave too much potential for match fixers to influence referees? Let us know in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.