Standing at the center of Super Bowl 56, when the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on February 13, is head referee Ron Torbert. The 58-year-old has been an official for the NFL for 12 years, and a referee since the 2014 season, per USA Today.
This will be the first time Torbert will referee the Super Bowl and the Harvard Law School graduate will be in line for a major pay bump for his new gig. NFL referees are estimated to make $205,000 a year, FanDuel reported in 2019. If that estimate was correct, that means refs were making an average of $12,058 per game during the NFL’s 17-week regular season, or $9,762 per week for a 21-week season.
Now, that the NFL season is 18 weeks, it would make sense that referee’s saw an increase in salary before the start of the 2021 NFL season. However, unlike players and staff, the NFL has never revealed exactly how much more money refs make on Super Bowl Sunday.
In 2001, The Washington Post reported that the officiating crew members received an $11,900 bonus for working the Super Bowl, which, according to Money, would now equate to an estimated bonus between $30,000 to $50,000.
Money points to the likely average Super Bowl bonus being close to $40,000 as of 2018, based on the bonus-to-salary proportions in the past.
NFL Refs are Not Full-Time Employees
The NFL delivered a huge blow when it decided referees could only be part-time employees, leaving the league’s officiating staff without the benefits that come with having a full-time job, ESPN reported in August 2020.
Torbert, who started out his officiating career with high school and rec leagues, has balanced his NFL duties alongside his work as an attorney for over a decade. Torbert worked as a lawyer for Barton Marlow, a constructing and contracting company, until he retired in 2019, as reported by The Baltimore Sun.
The NFL had a full-time program for officiating staff in 2017 and 2018, according to ESPN, “but shelved it for the 2019 season while negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Referees Association.” In fall 2019, the NFL Referees Association signed a new deal that provided their 119 members with salaries that matched those of full-time officials in other professional sports leagues.
Funds are also automatically deposited into pension plans for NFL officials “through the 2016 season or 20 years of service,” after which the NFL provides an $18,000 annual contribution and a partial match to employee contributions to a 401(k) plan, Money reported.
Torbert Said He’s Been Waiting to Officiate a Super Bowl for 33 Years
As the head referee for the Super Bowl, Torbert’s calls, or missed calls, will be put under a microscope on Sunday. Regardless of which team wins, Torbert will be in a position to become the focal point of vicious attacks from disgruntled players, coaches, and fans.
Despite this, Torbert was both “humbled and proud” when Walt Anderson, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, called him to work Super Bowl LVI.
“I’ve been preparing for this moment for more than 30 years,” he said, per The Baltimore Sun. “I didn’t always know that’s what I was doing, but every game I worked, every clinic, every training camp and practice that I’ve been a part of, every moment at the gym, every training and scouting video that I’ve ever watched, has helped me get ready for this game.”
Torbert, who’s officiated three Wild Card games and six divisional-round playoff games, feels ready take on the big job on Super Bowl Sunday. “It’s validation of a lot of years of hard work and study,” Torbert said. “It means I have the opportunity to take the field in the biggest game in our sport.”
Rounding out Torbert’s crew on Super Bowl 56 include the following officials:
Umpire: Bryan Neale
Down Judge: Derick Bowers
Line Judge: Carl Johnson
Field Judge: Rick Patterson
Side Judge: Keith Washington
Back Judge: Scott Helverson
Replay Official: Roddy Ames
Replay Assistant: Sean McKee
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