How Many Points to Avoid Premier League Relegation? [ANALYSIS]

Since its inception in 1992, the English Premier League has offered up some wonderfully competitive and extremely tight relegation battles.

Dropping out of the most lucrative league in the world is a disaster for any club, and it is well known that returning to the top league via the ultra-competitive English Championship is by no means a given.

Many so-called ‘big clubs’, after dropping out of the Premier League, have slipped even further down the league ladders – so survival is absolutely crucial.

But how many points does a club need to avoid the dreaded drop? Is the magic number really 40 points? And how much has the relegation dogfight changed over the years in terms of how many points are needed to stay in the Premier League?

Just as the number of points needed to win the league each season can vary hugely, the same is true of the points required to survive.

Premier League Relegation Points All-Time

1992/93 (22-team league)19th – Oldham 49 pts (-11 goal difference)20th – Crystal Palace 49 pts (-13 goal difference)
1993/94 (22-team league)19th – Ipswich 43 pts20th – Sheffield Utd 42 pts
1994/95 (22-team league, 4 teams relegated)18th – Aston Villa 48 pts19th – Crystal Palace 45 pts
1995/9617th – Southampton 38 pts (-18 goal difference)18th – Manchester City 38 pts (-25 goal difference)
1996/9717th – Coventry City 41 pts18th – Sunderland 40 pts
1997/9817th – Everton 40 pts (-15 goal difference)18th – Bolton 40 pts (-20 goal difference)
1998/9917th – Southampton 41 pts18th – Charlton Athletic 35 pts
1999/0017th – Bradford City 36 pts18th – Wimbledon 33 pts
2000/0117th – Derby County 42 pts18th – Manchester City 34 pts
2001/0217th – Sunderland 40 pts18th – Ipswich Town 36 pts
2002/0317th – Bolton 44 pts18th – West Ham 42 pts
2003/0417th – Everton 39 pts18th – Leicester City 33 pts
2004/0517th – West Brom 34 pts18th – Crystal Palace 33 pts
2005/0617th – Portsmouth 38 pts18th – Birmingham City 34 pts
2006/0717th – Wigan Athletic 38 pts (-22 goal difference)18th – Sheffield United 38 pts (-23 goal difference)
2007/0817th – Fulham 36 pts (-22 goal difference)18th – Reading 36 pts (-25 goal difference)
2008/0917th – Hull City 35 pts18th – Newcastle United 34 pts
2009/1017th – West Ham 35 pts18th – Burnley 30 pts
2010/1117th – Wolves 40 pts18th – Birmingham City 39 pts
2011/1217th – Queens Park Rangers 37 pts18th – Bolton 36 pts
2012/1317th – Sunderland 39 pts18th – Wigan Athletic 36 pts
2013/1417th – West Brom 36 pts18th – Norwich City 33 pts
2014/1517th – Aston Villa 38 pts18th – Hull City 35 pts
2015/1617th – Sunderland 39 pts18th – Newcastle United 37 pts
2016/1717th – Watford 40 pts18th – Hull City 34 pts
2017/1817th – Southampton 36 pts18th – Swansea City 33 pts
2018/1917th – Brighton 36 pts18th – Cardiff City 34 pts
2019/2017th – Aston Villa 35 pts18th – Bournemouth 34 pts
2020/2117th – Burnley 39 pts18th – Fulham 28 pts

Lowest Premier League Points Total to Avoid Relegation

2004/05West Brom34 pts
2008/09Hull City35 pts
2009/10West Ham35 pts
2019/20Aston Villa35 pts

Has Anyone Ever Been Relegated with 40 Points?

Three teams have reached 40 points or more and been relegated from a 20-team Premier League – West Ham with 42 points (2002/03), Sunderland with 40 points (1996/97) and Bolton Wanderers with 40 points (1997/98).

So the mythical 40 point mark that is said to guarantee Premier League safety is just that – a myth.

Birmingham City were relegated in the 2010/11 season despite accruing 39 points, while in 1995/96 Manchester City failed to survive despite earning 38 points, being relegated by only seven goals, with Southampton surviving with 38 points and a goal difference of -18.

If you think that is unlucky, spare a thought for the Sheffield United team of 2006/07, who reached 38 points with a -23 goal difference only to be relegated by a single goal, with Wigan Athletic surviving on 38 points and a -22 goal difference. Heartbreak for the Blades.

Highest Points Total to Be Relegated from Premier League

West Ham United earned the unwanted record of the highest points total to be relegated from the Premier League when they reached 42 points in the 2002/03 season and still finished in 18th position, two points behind Bolton Wanderers.

PositionTeamPlayedWonDrewLostGFGCGDPts
18thWest Ham381012164259-1742

The Hammers won 10 and drew 12 of their 38 games, including home and away victories over London rivals Chelsea, and averaged more than a goal a game during the course of the season.

They lost manager Glenn Roeder to illness in April after he won the league’s Manager of the Month award in March (with club legend Trevor Brooking taking over as caretaker manager), and striker Jermain Defoe was nominated for Young Player of the Year at the end of the season.

They had finished seventh in the Premier League the previous season, narrowly missing out on European competition, but despite a squad containing several then-current or future England internationals, including David James, Trevor Sinclair, Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe, Glen Johnson and Michael Carrick, a terrible start to the season saw them win just three out of their first 24 matches, and the club found themselves bottom of the table at Christmas with just 16 points.

Despite a late-season run of good results, their 10-year stay in the Premier League came to an end with a 2-2 draw against Birmingham City while Bolton were defeating Middlesbrough 2-1 to ensure their safety on the final day of the season.

How Many Points to Guarantee Premier League Survival

Technically, the points total that must be reached to guarantee Premier League survival is 43, as no club has ever earned that many points and been relegated. West Ham earned 42 points in 2002/03 and were relegated.

But what are the chances of staying in the Premier League by accruing fewer points than the elusive 43? Here’s the statistical evidence given what we have learned from the 26 seasons of a 20-team Premier League season, based on the points required to finish 17th in the league each year. 

Points earnedNumber of seasons it would have led to survival (17th place, assuming a better goal difference than team in 18th) Chance of Premier League relegation (1995/96–present)
291/2696.2%
302/2692.3%
312/2692.3%
322/2692.3%
336/2676.9%
3413/2650%
3514/2646%
3619/2626.9%
3720/2623%
3822/2615.4%
3923/2611.5%
4025/263.8%
4125/263.8%
4225/263.8%
43+26/260%

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Thomas Smith

Tommy is a freelance writer and editor based in Spain but originally from the north east of Scotland. A former daily newspaper reporter, he is passionate about football, loves cricket and snooker and enjoys watching most sports.

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