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How Much Do Tennis Umpires Get Paid?

The recent Serena Williams debacle got me thinking about Tennis Umpires and more specifically how much they get paid to do the job that sees them travel to all four corners of the Globe for 11 months of the year.

Before doing any research, my estimate for the top umpires was around the $70k mark with most expenses covered. It turns out I wasn't too far off, but the rate of pay does differ quite significantly depending on where your officiate and what level you have reached. Let's take a look.

TL;DR A Gold Badge Tennis Umpire's salary is about $80k per annum. Lower level umpires pull in around $30k per year.

An Umpires “Badge Level” Determines the Rate of Pay

Lahyani Gold Badge

To become an International Level Tennis Umpire you need to pass a Level 3 School certification. Before that there's L2, L1 certifications for Umpires just at the lower levels.

Once you pass the L3 certification, Chair Umpires start as a Bronze Badge and depending on their performance will be promoted to Silver and then to Gold in the annual review conducted by the ITF, ATP and WTA. This can be a lengthy process; for example, it took Eva Asderaki four years to move from Bronze to Silver.

On the circuit right now there are 31 gold badge umpires, and as you can see from the list below, they're the ones we see on all the show courts at the main tournaments. They're also the highest paid due to the Gold Badge status.

Current Gold Badge Umpires as of 2019

Men

  • Ali Nili
  • Carlos Bernardes
  • Carlos Ramos
  • Cédric Mourier
  • Damian Steiner (fired in 2019)
  • Damien Dumusois
  • Emmanuel Joseph
  • Fergus Murphy
  • Gianluca Moscarella
  • Jake Garner
  • James Keothavong
  • John Blom
  • Kader Nouni
  • Manuel Messina
  • Mohamed El Jennati
  • Mohamed Lahyani
  • Pierre Bacchi
  • Renaud Lichtenstein
  • Roland Herfel
  • Jaume Campistol
  • Adel Nour
  • Nico Helwerth

Women

  • Alison Hughes
  • Eva Asderaki-Moore
  • Juan (Jennifer) Zhang
  • Louise Engzell
  • Mariana Alves
  • Marija Čičak
  • Marijana Veljović
  • Julie Kjendlie
  • Aurélie Tourte
  • Paula Vieira Souza

From my understanding, while still self-employed a small number of chair umpires are on full-time contracts with the ITF so as part of the agreement will need to be present at certain ITF sanctioned events. Another portion have deals with the ATP and the same for the WTA.

The others are purely hired guns, so they can pick and choose which tournaments they want to work. So the number of gold badge umpires at any of the given Grand Slams varies as they can choose to skip it or umpire elsewhere.

In 2011 some umpires actually skipped the US Open as the pay just wasn't worth it, other complaints were it was poorly run with too long hours. So that is why you see some lower-level umpires officiating matches in the early rounds.  However, a gold badge umpire will be officiating every match from the quarterfinals onward at a Grand Slam.

So How Much do Umpires Get Paid?

Richards Ings Former Umpire

At the 2018 US Open gold badge officials received a standard day rate of $450 which is is the lowest of any of the Grand Slams. In 2011 this was $250 per day, so there has been a bit of a pay rise since then even when you factor in inflation.

At 2018 Wimbledon gold badge umpires received £380 a day (around $495). Compared to 2011 where they were paid £189 per day for each match officiated.

Unfortunately, I don't have the 2018 figures for the French Open and Australian Open. However, based on the 2011 numbers and how the other Grand Slams have upped it we can get a pretty good idea.

Both the US and Wimbledon have upped pay ~100% since 2011. So with French Open Gold Badge Umpires receiving €190 per day in 2011, it's going to be around €380 ($443) per day right now. This figure could be slightly out as many quotes I've seen say the US Open is the worst paying Grand Slam for Umpires, or at least it was historically.

The Australian Open paid $375 (AUD) in 2011, and they are the only Grand Slam to offer overtime for umpires officiating over 10 hours per day. So the day rate now should be around $750 (AUD) ($536) plus overtime.

So if you worked a fulll US Open with 1 day off, you walked away with $5850 after two weeks work. Based on the rates above  working all 4 Grand Slams in a year will give umpires around $25k.

From there, a quick look at the ATP Calendar and an Umpire could do around another 25-30 tournaments per year each lasting a week at a time.

The rate of pay is naturally going to be lower at the smaller events and will vary depending on the size, prestige, and revenue of the tournament.

I don't have pay rates for the Masters 1000's, 500's and 250's, but it's going to be around 50% less on average than the slam rate. If we put it at an average of $300 per day, working at a max schedule of 30 tournaments will give you around $52k. Combine that with the Grand Slams and a Gold Badge Umpire will be taking home around $70-80k per annum.

These calculations tally nicely with a BBC article about becoming an Umpire which is no longer live, it said:

A top umpire can expect to earn £50-£60,000 per annum, but it takes a long time to get there! Most make around £30,000. On average a line judge can expect to receive £20,000.

The Differences Between Badges Extend Beyond the Rate of Pay

Eva Asderaki

Alongside the daily rate of pay, Gold Badge Umpires do get a few other little perks. Perks include meal vouchers at the tournament ($30-40/day), and for Grand Slams they do get accommodation sorted. Accommodation is a private hotel room at the US Open and French Open; a shared two bedroom apartment in Australia and Wimbledon requires umpires to sort their own housing which is subsidised at $120 per day.

Travel expenses are also partially covered by each of the Grand Slams, which ranges from $500-$1000, with the US Open offering the least.

As for the lower level umpires, some of their expenses are covered but when they're without contracts for events, flights will be paid out of their own pocket.

So there you go, it's around $70-80k a year for the top level umpires, peanuts compared to what the players earn but in the grand scheme of things, there are worse jobs out there.

What do you guys think of the job? Are they being remunerated sufficiently? Would you be a Tennis Umpire? Let me know in the comments.

And if any current or former umpires read this (or anyone who is privy to information I'm not), feel free to send any corrections or additions my way. I'm not a journalist and this blog is just a hobby, so your anonymity is guaranteed.

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Federer and tennis in general.

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85 Comments

  1. Putting aside average paid, I will be umpire just at Nole, Nadal, Fognini, Serena and NK’s matches. I will make Eva and Ramos look their nice grandma just to piss them off… wouldnt it be fun.

    On a serious note, pretty average rate of pay for the amount of shit they get from some players. Tough job.

    1. But if you think about how much crap the average call centre worker gets for a bank, or in retail. It isn’t that bad… they also got pretty much a free shot at choosing their tax residency as well as no way they’re in 1 country for over 180 days a year.

      One thing I didn’t touch on is pension, sick pay etc. That is one tough aspect to it as I’m assuming if you are too sick to umpire, you aren’t getting paid. And you’ll need to be planning for retirement carefully. Although looking at the gold badges, they go upstairs like Graf, Ullrich etc.

  2. Poor Carlos, got paid $450 for the night, got more than an earful from Ms Wioman/Mother/Race/Victim card Williams, branded a sexist by the feminist brigade, got finger wagged at, called a thief, and got roundly booed by a arrogant, ignorant New York crowd. Wait…that’s not all. He still owes an apology to the WTA, the USTA, particularly Katrina Adams who wasn’t delivered the outcome she hoped for, to Williams and her daughter, and to each and every mother out there struggling on a daily basis, with or without their better halves.

    It’s been a hard days night for Carlos. Takes a lot to be a chair umpire, doesn’t it? Are you up for it, folks?

    I’m a firm believer that an overwhelming majority of tennis players, no matter what level, are assholes. Now, I can say that about tennis spectators, particularly in American cities.

    1. Maybe they should have a special award, for “The Biggest Arsehole in the Tournament”, voted by the umpires? No, wait – Williams would win the calendar slam…

    2. CookieThief, totally agree with you here! And the man was just following the rules to the best of his ability in a high pressure situation in front of a hostile crowd.

      1. It’s genius how these feminists who give feminists a bad name twist facts. Men aren’t penalized a game for verbal abuse. Why is a woman? Because, you dumb fucks, men did it as their first or second violations, not a third like Williams did.

        Why is it that anytime Williams is involved in these incidents around violations, it has something to do with sexism, and race? I haven’t seen any other woman who has been penalized make such a big deal.

      2. On that particular warm romantic summer evening, Ms. Williams did more for machism and racism than the whole KKK and the Catholic Church wrapped in a red flag with a suastika cross. They should be grateful.

  3. When I ran into Alison Hughes in NYC, she wasn’t too forthcoming with info. I’m guessing she has to keep her mouth shut. Wouldn’t tell us how much line judges, umps make. I asked her about the line judge that Serena was going to kill by stuffing a tennis ball down her throat. A cute short Asian woman. Alison said she was a very sweet person and very good at her job.

    Alison told us, she only does two matches per day at the USO. That’s it. I don’t know if that is so at other events. With all the money floating around out there, I don’t think they make enough. Djoker made over 3 million. I think it’s a tough job. Jet lag, constant travel, player abuse, lol.

    Whilst umpiring the 2015 Australian Open women’s final between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, Hughes invoked the “hindrance rule” against Williams for shouting “C’mon” just as Sharapova was trying to return the ball.[6] In the same year, Hughes umpired the Fed Cup final between the Czech Republic and Russia. It was her twelfth Fed Cup final, and she was part of the first ever all-female officiating team at a Fed Cup final.[7] In 2016, Hughes umpired a US Open match between Marcos Baghdatis and Gaël Monfils, and gave Baghdatis a formal warning for using his mobile phone during the changeover time.[8][9]

    She officiated the men’s final this year. I noticed right from the get-go she had the crowd under control. What stress! It’s like the Roman Coliseum, throwing Christians to the lions. Did they put a female chair ump in on purpose after the woman’s final?

      1. Really? At Wimbledon at least, it’s been said that who gets to umpire the finals depends on the various umpires’ performance during the event (and maybe their nationality, so it’s not the same as that of any of the competitors?)

    1. 2 matches, could be a 4-hour shift, could be 10.

      I am trying to figure out if they are underpaid. Not sure what I think tbh. If I was doing that job would I want more than $80k a year. I think it’s not bad, I’d be becoming a Georgian resident though or something to maximise it 😆

      Like I said above – pensions and sick pay are one issue as nobody is employed directly by the sounds of it…

      You kinda know what you are signing up for though with regards to travel

    2. I am all for female umpires chairing high pressure matches between men. Remember Eva Asderaki at the 2015 US Open final? What a legendary performance !!

    3. From the organizers/owners perspective, tennis is just a business. No one pays to watch umpires, so they are irrelevant in a big scheme and paid as little as possible (a fundamental principle of liberal capitalism). There is a nice term that every business use to justify anyone’s payment: market value.
      Obviously, there is a sufficient number of people taking a course and becoming a tennis umpire, so there is no push on there salaries.
      On average tennis players are paid a peanuts. Players ranked 100th in the world probably makes on average 100-120 k /year over 10 years, after cost deductions. If you below 200th, you can only play tennis as a hobby (will not leave from the playing).
      Compare that with 250k that every soccer player makes just for sitting on the bench (reserve players) on any European soccer club…
      …and he probably is ranked as 20,000th – 50,000th in the world.

      There is no justice in the business.

  4. I was shocked that the umpires were paid so poorly. The gold umps are at the top of their profession, and you described a long, tough process to get there. Professional tennis is an entertainment industry, and the Slams seem to be bringing in lots of money, so it’s not as though there isn’t more $ available. As you said, they have to cover retirement, and I imagine health insurance, etc. as well. I was also surprised that they could work 10 hours a day. I can’t imagine keeping the necessary focus for that long in a day.

    If this is what those at the top make, I don’e want to even think about the pay scales for umps at lower levels.

      1. I swear to God, this is 2018, I wish they had a way to turn the commentary off, and leave the rest of the audio on. I mean, how difficult can it be two filter out an audio stream? I’d enjoy just the sounds of match play exactly how the stadium experiences it, and mute these stupid, fucking, low quality commentators (at the US open).

      1. You have to look at it in relation to what is happening in the world of tennis. The players making 3.8 million to win. And the ump making $425. It doesn’t make sense to me.
        Sure people make less flipping burgers at McDonalds but their manager isn’t making hundreds of thousands.
        In the washroom of Ashe, I overheard some staff talking. Many workers were quitting and just walking off the job because of the low wages, poor hours etc.

      2. The owner of the McDonalds franchise probably is making that though 😀

        In relation to player earnings, it’s dreadful. But I don’t think it’s a terrible job for $80k a year. What other jobs pay a comparable salary and are better, easier, less hassle?

        I imagine for a top umpire their cost of living is fairly low, with a lot of expenses covered. So with a bit of sensible tax planning, they’re taking home a big chunk of cash a year. Can live a pretty comfortable life in many places on that per year. Prague, land a lot of Eastern Europe you’d be living like a king really.

  5. Thanks for the post Jonathan. I was wondering about this all week. No way I’d become an umpire for this pay. It’s a tough and high pressure job out there. The constant travel, leaving your family behind. As you mentioned health cover and pension is a big question mark. Which country’s employment conditions do they follow? The poor fellow who was hit by Shapovolov and had to undergo eye surgery, was it covered by ITF and what about compensations for the tournaments he couldn’t work as a result? I wonder what motivates these umpire to become umpires in their young age?

    1. I bet the ITF covered that tbh, but dunno for sure.

      I would guess most of them play tennis then transition to umpiring. James K obviously must have played, Asderaki played in Greece. Prob get in the chair by chance one time at a club event and then before you know it it’s a career idea.

      1. Again, at Wimbledon a few years ago one of the commentators said that they usually start off as linespersons and then move upwards from there. Which is partly why I worry about the prospect of lines being called by machines …

      1. At the risk of sounding a bit Freudian, perhaps the spanking he gave Serena has provoked some of your interest….

  6. I often wonder about the umpires, and although they certainly do it for love of tennis, the pay and work is too sporadic. Just imagine the years and years they put in starting from ( I imagine) line judges at regional junior tournament, up to adult satellite tourney, then ATP/WTA matches in the boonies and outer courts etc. Plus the stress of having to sit in that chair for hours at a time, I wonder if they ever get to stand up while in the perch.

    1. I don’t think the work is sporadic, the tennis calendar is jam packed with events they can umpire at…

      You rarely see them get out the chair, although the average match time outside the Slams must be sub 2 hours so it’s not too long to sit.

      1. Some commentator said recently, I think, that during one of the days of *that* Isner v. Mahut match at Wimbledon one of the umpires didn’t leave his chair for the whole duration of the match.

  7. Never read so many nauseating articles in the media buying into the Serena bs. The Guardian, with its legion of angry feminist crusaders in the payroll, is one of the worst. Yet most tennis fans commenting on social media are appalled at the behaviour of the Her Majesty, The Baby. It shows the gulf between the media and the public – writers writing for themselves and their little clan of the professionally self-righteous. The tennis establishment has been no better. Ramos deserves a medal.

      1. Non-sport political/social columnists have jumped on the bandwagon. Ignorant of the game. But none of the sports writers have defended Ramos, either, and have made excuses for Williams.

      1. There have been one or two good commentaries. But, unfortunately, they are the exception. Too many have simply responded with their pre-packaged thinking when their buttons have been pushed. Indignation comes easily to them.

    1. Daniel himself has said that perhaps he should have retired a couple years ago, when he was still playing at a high level. But he went on to say that now he won’t be second guessing his decision to retire. The other amazing stat is playing in 53 DC ties, and winning 48 matches, in both singles and doubles. His first, as a 19-year-old beating then No. 1 Stefan Edberg, was a biggie, and has gone down in our tennis history. But even more important, Nestor’s love of Davis Cup was a wonderful example for the younger players.

      I am going to this DC tie, the last one that will take place in Canada under the old format. Friday was thrilling, especially that amazing comeback by Shapo. I was disappointed that Daniel could not play better in his last competition match, but at least he did get to play in front of his home fans. Today, just before the Milos vs Haase match, Danny will be inducted into Canada’s Tennis Hall of Fame. That will be a joyous occasion, and I’m looking forward to it.

      1. Hey Hartt, Go Canada, eh? Cool you are going to DC. I’ve been several times here in Vancouver. Honestly, love to watch Nestor play. Also, at IW. He has done so much for tennis in Canada and around the world. The players love him in the locker room, so much fun.
        Yes, I watched the Shapo vs Hasse match on Friday. He was down 2 sets and bp I believe. Dansevic did a good job reining him in.

  8. So, it will be France vs Croatia for the  Davis Cup final… The football world cup final – revisited.  🙂 The last one… I hope we’ll get it for the second year in a row. 🙂

  9. Thanks, Jonathan, for this well-researched post. It’s a tough job, but the pay is not too bad, and if you love tennis but cannot play it for some reason, then I guess it’s a good place to be in, Except for stray incidents… like a ball hitting your eye, or a pseudo-feminist hitting your integrity!

    1. Thanks Sucharita for the word pseudo-feminism. Like in religion, (wo)men are doing their -isms a great antifavor when abusing for egotistic and unfair purpose.

      1. Yes, Muser, I feel very strongly about such ego-driven and agenda-driven abuse of “feminism”. You are absolutely right, it’s doing genuine feminist causes a disservice.

      2. For some, when they have seen or experienced an injustice there is the risk of seeing it everywhere. Then there is the accompanying gratification of feeling morally superior calling it out. Virtue-ism.

  10. Just imagine myself officiating Fed’s match… Would be so cool watching him from the chair. Ah, no way I can do the job, hah! 😆 An interesting topic and conversation here, thanks Jonathan. Are you doing the post for Laver Cup?

    1. I will do some posts yet, not sure I will cover each match or be able to watch them all. Not decided yet on waking up at silly times. 6-hour difference and the weekend so prob will watch.

  11. This is quite shocking.

    I would have thought the elite umpires would be making atleast 200 to 300k per year considering the importance of the job.

    Wow imagine turning up to work and getting abuse where taking abuse is part of job description.

    I don’t know about the pay rates of umpires and officials in other sports and it makes it even more shocking.

    You can say that you don’t want to get paid to take abuse but you can make the argument that if your pay is high, you would be ok with a bit of abuse being thrown towards you.

    Its quite astonishing how the umpires in Tennis are not respected AT ALL. You look at other sports and even when the players know and everyone knows umpire made bad call, they accept it. If they show dissent towards the umpire, they are punished heavily. But mostly it doesn’t happen in the first place because there is respect for umpires.

    Tennis seems to be exception and its quite sad and disappointing.

    1. “Its quite astonishing how the umpires in Tennis are not respected AT ALL. You look at other sports and even when the players know and everyone knows umpire made bad call, they accept it.”

      I assume you have never watched a football game 😆

      In the grand scheme of thins Umpire’s get very little abuse. Serena is an outlier really, the worst of the worst. I get shit from customers all the time, it’s part and parcel of the job.

  12. Thanks Jonathan for this article on umpire pay and how their world works. After US Open 2018 there is a lot of interest in the umpires all of a sudden! Very interesting.

    I offer an alternate perspective on the umpire role, in terms of both status and how they are compensated. It is critical that the umpires do not – and do not appear – to have any conflict of interest in the matches. (Hello Mo and Carlos!!) While umpires are reasonably compensated for their work (as you have nicely explained) it is not an extravagant fee. Especially when considering their status in the tennis community and the importance of their role for the game. Perhaps this is deliberate. Umpires need to be above reproach to legitimize the whole sport/business of tennis. Millions of dollars and reputations are at stake. They are compensated but not overcompensated to avoid creating a financial conflict of interest, or the perception of one.

    What do you think?

    1. Would you care to elaborate Chris, how, if they’re paid more, I’d agree $200-300k sounds a lot fairer, it would be seen as a conflict of interest finally for the game? I just can’t see the connection here

    2. What would be the conflict of interest be?

      I would say they’re not paid more because the job comes with non-financial benefits, so it’s seen as quite desirable, hence they can pay less in salary.

      And the ITF / ATP / WTA are basically the only people that can employ them, so it’s almost a monopoly who have the power to set the pay level.

  13. Well,I have always hoped that when Mohammed Lleyani retires he should writhe his autobiography.When you think of the matches he has umpired and what he must know about tennis players,it would be very interesting indeed,to put it mildly.

  14. Interesting post Jonathan, I admit I was a little surprised as I thought
    they would have been paid more. It must be one of the very few jobs
    when someone on that pay grade can tell a multi millionare to toe the line!

      1. Alexis baby has taken it upon himself to fight for the cause. Shots fired at Roger, with zero knowledge about the fact that Roger was actually fined for that outburst, of course. Seems all Roger’s carefully thought out diplomacy amounted to nothing in the end. Man, are these rich Americans self absorbed or what?
        How does the net worth of Ms. Williams compare with that of Mr. Ohanian?

    1. I was slightly surprised given the original “official” response. Perhaps they thought they had to do something to escape more accusations of “sexism”?

      1. I have no doubt the WTA/USTA is in some way responsible for pushing this ban. I guess it’s deserved though and if it shuts up those feminists-who-give-feminists-a-bad-name-dumb-fucks, so be it.

  15. Referees are way too criticized. They are trying to do their job and from their position it’s not easy to control everything…
    Let’s say if I was the ref in Serena’s match., I would give penalties for all the coaching, smashing racket and all the name calling. (No doubt) Would do that for everyone if the situation is the same for example. If the player complains, I will let him speak once without replying. If the player speaks multiple times about the same thing, then I would add another penalty. Just following the rules that’s all. Whoever you are you shouldn’t just go somewhere without taking the rules into account. If I was in Lahyani’s situation, I wouldn’t actually say a word to Kyrgios.

    1. Well, I would give him a foreword that if he insisted on not trying, he would get penalised.
      But only in this situation because in some occasions it can be difficult to assess if the player is actually not trying his best.
      After that, zero tolerance. It’s up to the player to get his $hi7e together. This is not a team sport.

  16. Fed should have kept his mouth shut. No matter what he says, it will be criticized. Trying to use diplomacy doesn’t work. Good for Rafa for not speaking English that well, he is off the hook to explain his views, no.

  17. [Male players were slapped with 1517 fines compared to 535 fines for females according to data compiled by officials at Grand Slam tournaments for the period covering 1998 to 2018.]

    This is sexism at its best. Why do male players have to suffer such injustice?

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