Commentary

The truth about EPL relegation

Newly-promoted clubs should not get to comfortable in the Premier League

Updated: August 12, 2011, 9:21 AM ET
By Voros McCracken | ESPN Insider
Fernando TorresVictor Fraile/Getty ImagesFernando Torres and Chelsea don't live with the same worries of relegation as borderline clubs do.

Congratulations to Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City and Swansea City for their promotion to the English Premiership. Now comes the hard part: staying there.

Few things in all of sports can compare to the feeling of seeing your club promoted to the top league in the world. It's the dreamiest of dreams for every small club around the world: "One day we'll reach the top and play against the best of the best." For those who do make it, the euphoria soon fades as the reality of the struggle that's ahead of them begins to take shape. The Yin and Yang of English football is that ultimate joy often precedes ultimate sorrow.

Since the 1996-97 season, 21 of the 45 newly promoted teams have been immediately relegated the next season, and many others would be relegated in the years soon after.

So-called "yo-yo clubs" like Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion have spent the bulk of this time bouncing back and forth between the top two leagues in English football; too good for one league, often not good enough for the other. Clubs like Fulham, Blackburn, Bolton and Manchester City, who have stayed up for over a decade now, are the exception (and Fulham and Bolton have rarely felt safe during this time).

One of the more interesting examples of the highs and lows of promotion and relegation is Ipswich Town from 1999-2002. In the first of these three seasons, Ipswich finished 3rd in the old 1st Division (now the Championship) and then won the playoff final to win promotion to the Premiership. Amazingly, Ipswich soared in its first year in the Premiership, finishing 5th with 66 points (both the highest totals for any newly promoted team over this time period) and just missed out on a Champions League spot in Europe. Surely this was a promoted team with real staying power, right?

Through 18 games of the following season, Ipswich recorded only a single win, and while their form eventually improved, it ultimately wasn't enough and back down they went. Financial problems and administration soon followed, and they have yet to return.

The current Wigan side represents the flipside of this coin.