By the Blouin News Sports staff

The shortcomings of the promotion/relegation system in the EPL

by in Soccer.


At the end of the 2011-2012 season, the Football League Championship –  a level under the English Premier League – promoted their top three teams into the 2012-2013 EPL season. The EPL relegated their bottom three teams – Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Wolverhampton Wanderers – into the Football League Championship to make room.

Two of the teams promoted look likely to remain in the EPL for next season, as West Ham United currently sit in 12th place out of 20 and Southampton in 15th. Those two clubs have successfully transitioned into the highest level of football in England and will look to gain traction in the coming years–a task that very few promoted teams have accomplished.

But for Reading, the #1 promoted team from the 2011-2012 season, it may have been a short-lived tenure in the EPL. Reading is currently in 18th place and has only won four of its 23 games this season. If the season were to end today, they would be relegated, but with plenty of season left there is still time to right the ship. Perhaps they are targeting Aston Villa as a club they can pass — Aston Villa currently have given up the most goals in the season and have scored the second-fewest.

In 2010-2011, Queens Park Rangers were the #1 promoted team into the EPL for the 2011-2012 season. QPR finished in 17th place in their first year after being promoted, narrowly escaping relegation. But it’s not looking so good for the club this season, as they sit in dead last with the worst stats in the league. They’ve won only two of the team’s 23 matches and have only scored 18 goals in the season, the fewest in the league. There doesn’t seem to be much hope for QPR: they’d need an astonishing finish to the season to be playing in the EPL come 2013-2014.

For one team, Wigan Athletic, an eight-year run in the EPL might be nearing its end. Wigan Athletic is in similar position to Reading. I.e, they’re certainly in position to pass a team like Aston Villa, but will need to play stellar ball the rest of the way to do so. In the past eight years, they never managed to crack the top 10 but certainly remained competitive (and that’s saying a lot for a promoted team).

Only twice in the history of the league have all three promoted sides avoided relegation after one season– 2001-2002 with Fulham, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers and in 2011–12 with Queens Park Rangers, Swansea City and Norwich City all surviving the season.

45 teams have played in the EPL, and only seven — Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur — have remained in the league the entire time. If Aston Villa is to continue their atrocious season, that number might drop to six.

Promoted teams certainly have a history of not succeeding in the EPL. Consider the 1997-1998 season, when all three promoted sides (Bolton Wanderers, Barnsley and Crystal Palace) were relegated after just one season. However, two teams have reached as high as third place one season after promotion: Newcastle United in 1993-1994 and Nottingham Forest in 1994-1995.

The promotion/relegation tactic in the EPL is exciting for clubs with their sights on the highest stage, but it certainly hasn’t proven to bring any new competition into the league. Three teams: Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal account for 18 of the leagues 20 total championships since 1992-1993. The EPL is the most-watched football league in the world, and has done so with three teams dominating. Readjusting the way this system is used could certainly provide longevity to the popularity of the sport.