How Often Do Newly Promoted Teams Get Relegated?
When it comes to English football, the Premier League is the holy grail. Whether it be in terms of financial development, being able to attract larger crowds or simply the prestige that comes with it, the English top-flight is the place that every club wants to be. Every single year three teams get promoted into it, but how often do they go straight back down? That’s what I’m having a look at on this page. How easy is it for the teams that have climbed the greasy pole to get themselves in to the Premier League to stay there? Is it a case of most sides going back down almost immediately, or do some manager to establish themselves and even, on occasion, take the fight to the big boys at the top? What about the divisions further down the football league?
From a betting point of view, people are often quick to assume that teams that have only just made it into a new league will struggle and end up heading straight back down. Yet does the research reflect that viewpoint? Is it a fair assumption that a new team in one of England’s main leagues will fail to cope and soon be ‘back down where they belong’, as rival fans might like to exclaim? Hopefully by the end of this piece you’ll have more of an idea about the teams that tend to come up and then go straight back down again across all of the main divisions in English football, as well as those that survive more often than not.
The Premier League
It makes sense to start at the top of the food chain, looking at which clubs have been promoted to the Premier League over eleven seasons and which ones have then gone straight back down again. Here’s a table, looking at the teams between 2006-2007 and 2016-2017:
|Season||Promoted from Championship the Year Before||Relegated from Premier League at Season’s End||Number of Teams Immediately Relegated|
|2006-2007||Reading, Sheffield United, Watford||Sheffield United, Charlton Athletic, Watford||2|
|2007-2008||Sunderland, Birmingham City, Derby County||Reading, Birmingham City, Derby County||2|
|2008-2009||West Bromwich Albion, Stoke City, Hull City||Newcastle United, Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion||1|
|2009-2010||Wolverhampton Wanderers, Birmingham City, Burnley||Burnley, Hull City, Portsmouth||1|
|2010-2011||Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion, Blackpool||Birmingham City, Blackpool, West Ham United||1|
|2011-2012||Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City, Swansea City||Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Wolverhampton Wanderers||0|
|2012-2013||Reading, Southampton, West Ham United||Wigan Athletic, Reading, Queens Park Rangers||1|
|2013-2014||Cardiff City, Hull City, Crystal Palace||Fulham, Norwich City, Cardiff City||1|
|2014-2015||Leicester City, Burnley, Queens Park Rangers||Hull City, Burnley, Queens Park Rangers||2|
|2015-2016||Bournemouth, Watford, Norwich City||Newcastle United, Norwich City, Aston Villa||1|
|2016-2017||Burnley, Middlesbrough, Hull City||Hull City, Middlesbrough, Sunderland||2|
You can see, then, that at least one team that was promoted from the Championship the season before has been relegated back down again at the end of the season in all but one of the eleven campaigns between 2006-2007 and 2016-2017. In four out of the eleven seasons, two teams have come up and then gone straight back down. You’ll also notice that several of the names crop up again and again. The likes of Watford, Birmingham City and Newcastle United are all teams that tended to yo-yo between leagues before settling in one or the other. Why might that be the case?
What Are Parachute Payments?
Now might be a good time to mention the so called ‘parachute payments’ that relegated teams receive. Teams that head out of the Premier League are given a share of an amount of money (it used to be £64 million) in order to help them cope with the transition between the top-flight and English football’s second-tier. That’s because it was feared that clubs might go bust, having signed players on expensive wages once they reached the Premier League, if they were forced to keep paying them after relegation.
Interestingly, the rules were changed for the 2016-2017 season. Prior to that, teams that were relegated would receive their payments over a period of four years, but that became three. Clubs that only spent one season in the Premier League had previously received three years worth of payments, but that became two. At the same time, parachute payments rose because of the Premier League’s newly negotiated TV deal. Parachute payments meant that newly relegated clubs were in a better position than those in the Championship trying to gain promotion, thanks to their ability to afford new players or to keep playing the previous ones that were believed to be good enough to cope with Premier League football.
Now we move on to the Championship. Are things decidedly different in English football’s second-tier, or are they much the same in terms of teams coming up and then going back down again?
|Season||Promoted From League One the Year Before||Relegated From Championship at Season’s End||Number of Teams Immediately Relegated|
|2006-2007||Southend United, Colchester United, Barnsley||Southend United, Luton Town, Leeds United||1|
|2007-2008||Scunthorpe United, Bristol City, Blackpool||Leicester City, Scunthorpe United, Colchester United||1|
|2008-2009||Swansea City, Nottingham Forest, Doncaster Rovers||Norwich City, Southampton, Charlton Athletic||0|
|2009-2010||Leicester City, Peterborough United, Scunthorpe United||Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth Argyle, Peterborough United||1|
|2010-2011||Norwich City, Leeds United, Millwall||Preston North End, Sheffield United, Scunthorpe United||0|
|2011-2012||Brighton & Hove Albion, Southampton, Peterborough United||Portsmouth, Coventry City, Doncaster Rovers||0|
|2012-2013||Charlton Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town||Peterborough United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bristol City||0|
|2013-2014||Doncaster Rovers, Bournemouth, Yeovil Town||Doncaster Rovers, Barnsley, Yeovil Town||2|
|2014-2015||Wolverhampton Wanderers, Brentford, Rotherham United||Millwall, Wigan Athletic, Blackpool||0|
|2015-2016||Bristol City, Milton Keynes Dons, Preston North End||Charlton Athletic, Milton Keynes Dons, Bolton Wanderers||1|
|2016-2017||Wigan Athletic, Burton Albion, Barnsley||Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic, Rotherham United||1|
You can see here that it’s much easier for teams to remain in the Championship after gaining promotion from League One than it is for Championship teams to gain a foothold in the Premier League. On five occasions out of the eleven, no promoted team has been relegated at the end of the season. Only once have two teams been promoted and relegated in the same campaign, with the other seasons seeing just one team drop straight back down.
One thing that is noticeable is the number of times that a team survives for just one season before eventually heading back down again. The likes of Scunthorpe United, Colchester United and Rotherham United all suffered the fate of not lasting all that long. That might well be because the difference between League One and the Championship isn’t that great, for example. It’s something to look at if you’re considering placing a bet on the team that is likely to get relegated.
We can now surmise, then, that there is a more significant difference in quality between the top-flight and second division in English football, but what does the drop between League One and League Two look like?
|Season||Promoted from League Two the Year Before||Relegated from League One at Season’s End||Number of Teams Immediately Relegated|
|2006-2007||Carlisle United, Northampton Town, Leyton Orient, Cheltenham Town||Chesterfield, Bradford City, Rotherham United, Brentford||0|
|2007-2008||Walsall, Hartlepool United, Swindon Town, Bristol Rovers||Bournemouth, Gillingham, Port Vale, Luton Town||0|
|2008-2009||Milton Keynes Dons, Peterborough United, Hereford United, Stockport County||Northampton Town, Crewe Alexandra, Cheltenham Town, Hereford United||1|
|2009-2010||Brentford, Exeter City, Wycombe Wanderers, Gillingham||Gillingham, Wycombe Wanderers, Southend United, Stockport County||2|
|2010-2011||Notts County, Bournemouth, Rochdale, Dagenham & Redbridge||Dagenham & Redbridge, Bristol Rovers, Plymouth Argyle, Swindon Town||1|
|2011-2012||Chesterfield, Bury, Wycombe Wanderers, Stevenage||Wycombe Wanderers, Chesterfield, Exeter City, Rochdale||2|
|2012-2013||Swindon Town, Shrewsbury Town, Crawley Town, Crewe Alexandra||Scunthorpe United, Bury, Hartlepool United, Portsmouth||0|
|2013-2014||Gillingham, Rotherham United, Port Vale, Bradford City||Tranmere Rovers, Carlisle United, Shrewsbury Town, Stevenage||0|
|2014-2015||Chesterfield, Scunthorpe United, Rochdale, Fleetwood Town||Notts County, Crawley Town, Leyton Orient, Yeovil Town||0|
|2015-2016||Burton Albion, Shrewsbury Town, Bury, Southend United||Doncaster Rovers, Blackpool, Colchester United, Crewe Alexandra||0|
|2016-2017||Northampton Town, Oxford United, Bristol Rovers, AFC Wimbledon||Port Vale, Swindon Town, Coventry City, Chesterfield||0|
Once again, it seems as though the difference between League One and League Two isn’t that great. Seven of the eleven seasons saw no previously promoted team face the drop at the end of the season. Interestingly, one team that had come up went straight back down on the same number of occasions that two teams did – twice each. Certainly the suggestion is there that those were perhaps strong League One seasons or weaker League Two campaigns, given that the vast majority of them time teams that came up could stay up for at least a couple of seasons.
As with the difference between the Championship and League One, though, teams tended to head back down sooner or later. Leyton Orient, Cheltenham Town and Crewe Alexandra all gained promotion, stuck around for a bit and then disappeared again. Certain teams, like Chesterfield, seemed to yo-yo between the two divisions, backing up the theory that there isn’t a huge amount of difference between them. The fact that four teams get promoted to, and relegated from, League One is interesting, too.
Last but not least comes a look at League Two. Given that the National League, which was previously known as the Football Conference, is essentially ‘non-league football’, it’s not outrageous to imagine that it will be significantly weaker than League Two. Yet is that the case? How do teams promoted up from non-league get on when they start playing in the Football League?
|Season||Promoted from National League the Year Before||Relegated from League Two at Season’s End||Number of Teams Immediately Relegated|
|2006-2007||Accrington Stanley, Hereford United||Boston United, Torquay United||0|
|2007-2008||Dagenham & Redbridge, Moreambe||Mansfield Town, Wrexham||0|
|2008-2009||Aldershot Town, Exeter City||Chester City, Luton Town||0|
|2009-2010||Burton Albion, Torquay United||Grimsby Town, Darlington||0|
|2010-2011||Stevenage Borough, Oxford United||Lincoln City, Stockport County||0|
|2011-2012||Crawley Town, AFC Wimbledon||Hereford United, Macclesfield Town||0|
|2012-2013||Fleetwood Town, York City||Barnet, Aldershot Town||0|
|2013-2014||Mansfield Town, Newport County||Bristol Rovers, Torquay United||0|
|2014-2015||Luton Town, Cambridge United||Cheltenham Town, Tranmere Rovers||0|
|2015-2016||Barnet, Bristol Rovers||Dagenham & Redbridge, York City||0|
|2016-2017||Cheltenham Town, Grimsby Town||Hartlepool United, Leyton Orient||0|
In the introduction to this section I suggested that League Two would be stronger than the National League, meaning that teams that were promoted were more likely to remain in the division. The facts certainly back up that notion, with not one side that gained promotion to League Two going back down again in the same season. As soon as teams enter the Football League they’re able to attract, and subsequently buy, better players. That means that they are then going to be as strong as the other teams in the division, thereby making relegation more likely.
It’s interesting to note that it’s more common for a team to go down and then come up again than it is for a side to come up and then go back down. That’s perhaps suggestive of the fact that teams consolidate their power once they’re in the Football League and try hard to maintain their place in it. In other words, far fewer teams yo-yo between the two divisions than elsewhere in English football. Another fact that’s worth bearing in mind as you ponder bets on teams to get relegated.
What the Stats Show
Across those eleven seasons, thirty-three teams were promoted into the Premier League, including sides that went down and came back up again. Of those thirty-three promoted sides, fourteen were relegated within the same season. In other words, just over 42% of the newly promoted sides are likely to drop out of the Premier League immediately.
When you drop to the Championship, there are still thirty-three sides that have been promoted over the course of the eleven seasons, but this time only seven of them are relegated straight away. That’s just over 21%, meaning that only one in every five promoted teams is likely to go back down.
For League One, the percentage grows smaller still. This time there have been forty-four teams promoted over the course of the eleven seasons, with six of them heading straight back into League Two. That’s just over 13.6% of sides that get promotion being relegated back down again. In that sense, teams are far more likely to stay in the third-tier of English football than either the top-flight or the second division.
If you support a non-league team that’s fighting for promotion then your luck is in. If you get up, it seems that there is zero chance you’ll go back down again in the same season. Twenty-two teams gained promotion into League Two and not one of them went back down in the same campaign. If you fancy betting on the teams that are likely to relegated, therefore, then you’d be sensible avoiding recently promoted teams in League Two, but looking at around half of them in the Premier League.
What About Relegated Teams Getting Promoted?
The flip side of the conversation, of course, is a look at teams that were promoted straight back up after having been relegated. I’m not going to repeat the charts, given that you can just look at the ones above from the bottom up. Instead, here are the numbers for each division:
- Premier League: 9
- The Championship: 9
- League One: 6
- League Two: 2
It’s quite fascinating to look at the number of teams that have been relegated from a division one season and then promoted back to it the season after. Over the course of the same number of seasons, thirty-three teams have been relegated from the Premier League and nine of them have come back up the following year. The same is true of teams in the Championship, meaning that there’s a 27.27% chance that your team will only spend one year out of either of the countries top two divisions.
Forty-four teams were relegated out of League One during the same period, with just six of them finding their way back up. That gives a little over a 13.63% chance of making their way back in the third-tier of English football if they head down into League Two. Just two of twenty-two teams have come back into the Football League after having been relegated into the National League, meaning there’s just a 9.09% chance of making your way straight back up if you end up leaving the ninety-two. Looked at another way, if you drop right the way through the divisions from the Premier League then the chance of you making it back up there is extremely slim.
That might well explain why some major clubs, such as Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and Portsmouth, have struggled to get back up to where some supporters believe they belong. Going down one division isn’t so bad, with there being a good chance that you’ll make your way back up again before too long. Drop down two divisions and the job will become harder, whilst dropping down three or four leagues and you could be in serious trouble.