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?
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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 pts||20th – Sheffield Utd 42 pts|
|1994/95 (22-team league, 4 teams relegated)||18th – Aston Villa 48 pts||19th – Crystal Palace 45 pts|
|1995/96||17th – Southampton 38 pts (-18 goal difference)||18th – Manchester City 38 pts (-25 goal difference)|
|1996/97||17th – Coventry City 41 pts||18th – Sunderland 40 pts|
|1997/98||17th – Everton 40 pts (-15 goal difference)||18th – Bolton 40 pts (-20 goal difference)|
|1998/99||17th – Southampton 41 pts||18th – Charlton Athletic 35 pts|
|1999/00||17th – Bradford City 36 pts||18th – Wimbledon 33 pts|
|2000/01||17th – Derby County 42 pts||18th – Manchester City 34 pts|
|2001/02||17th – Sunderland 40 pts||18th – Ipswich Town 36 pts|
|2002/03||17th – Bolton 44 pts||18th – West Ham 42 pts|
|2003/04||17th – Everton 39 pts||18th – Leicester City 33 pts|
|2004/05||17th – West Brom 34 pts||18th – Crystal Palace 33 pts|
|2005/06||17th – Portsmouth 38 pts||18th – Birmingham City 34 pts|
|2006/07||17th – Wigan Athletic 38 pts (-22 goal difference)||18th – Sheffield United 38 pts (-23 goal difference)|
|2007/08||17th – Fulham 36 pts (-22 goal difference)||18th – Reading 36 pts (-25 goal difference)|
|2008/09||17th – Hull City 35 pts||18th – Newcastle United 34 pts|
|2009/10||17th – West Ham 35 pts||18th – Burnley 30 pts|
|2010/11||17th – Wolves 40 pts||18th – Birmingham City 39 pts|
|2011/12||17th – Queens Park Rangers 37 pts||18th – Bolton 36 pts|
|2012/13||17th – Sunderland 39 pts||18th – Wigan Athletic 36 pts|
|2013/14||17th – West Brom 36 pts||18th – Norwich City 33 pts|
|2014/15||17th – Aston Villa 38 pts||18th – Hull City 35 pts|
|2015/16||17th – Sunderland 39 pts||18th – Newcastle United 37 pts|
|2016/17||17th – Watford 40 pts||18th – Hull City 34 pts|
|2017/18||17th – Southampton 36 pts||18th – Swansea City 33 pts|
|2018/19||17th – Brighton 36 pts||18th – Cardiff City 34 pts|
|2019/20||17th – Aston Villa 35 pts||18th – Bournemouth 34 pts|
|2020/21||17th – Burnley 39 pts||18th – Fulham 28 pts|
Lowest Premier League Points Total to Avoid Relegation
|2004/05||West Brom||34 pts|
|2008/09||Hull City||35 pts|
|2009/10||West Ham||35 pts|
|2019/20||Aston Villa||35 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.
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 earned||Number 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)|