Updated: How do clubs tend to fare from one season to the next?

Today I’m updating a relatively simple set of graphics from a few seasons back, which set a baseline expectation for how each club could perform next season based on how they did last time. What I’ve done is taken every set of league tables since the most recent change to the current promotion / relegation structure (in 2002/03, giving 14 seasons’ worth of data) and tracked how every club moved between consecutive seasons.

Obviously we can’t use this to predict anything about a specific club, but the precedent that’s been set gives us a general sense for how fluid each of the top four English divisions are from one season to the next, plus how above (or below) average a specific club would have to perform to finish in each section of the table next time around.

The way to read them is to start with one of the labels in the first column and then read across the row to see what percentage of clubs finishing in a specific part of the table ended up in each section the following season.

Premier League

Starting in the top left by way of an example, 21% of the clubs who won the Premier League title went on to win it again the following season while a further 57% ended up somewhere else in the top four.

The numbers are almost identical for teams finishing elsewhere in the Champions League places: just shy of four in every five of them have finished there again the following season.

Only a shade over one in three clubs who survived a season in the bottom half of the table manage to break into the top half the following year, while the survival rate for newly-promoted teams in their first season is slightly better than 50:50.


Below the top flight things are noticeably more fluid. For starters, only half of the sides relegated from the Premier League finished in the Championship top six at the first time of asking, with 29% making an immediate return while a further 21% lost in the play-offs. Incidentally the red “2%” at the end of the first row is one club: Wolves’ double relegation in 2012/13.

At the other end of the table, newly-promoted clubs have actually managed a slightly better survival rate in recent years than those who finished in the bottom half the year before, with a greater share of them securing a top half berth the following year too.

League 1

Bouncing back has been tougher for teams relegated from the Championship, with just over a third finishing in the top six and nearly half (31% + 14% = 45%) ending up in the bottom half of the table.

Again we find that teams coming up from the division below fare better than those who ended up in the bottom half the previous year: a greater share of newly-promoted sides end up finishing somewhere in the top half (adding the green and yellow bubbles up) and avoiding relegation.

League 2

Finally to League 2, where we have some zeroes for the first time since the Premier League graphic, although this is less surprising given that they all refer to teams moving to or from the National League. As there are only two slots available, compared to three or four higher up the ladder, there are fewer teams to spread across the categories.

The first thing that strikes me is that half of all teams relegated from League 1 have finished their first season in the bottom half of the table (45% + 5%) and only just over a quarter (20% + 7%) managed to secure one of the top seven spots.

It’s also interesting that while just over three in every five newly-promoted teams have finished their first season at this level in the bottom half of the table, none have gone straight back down and one in every five goes straight up to League 1. On average the 28 teams in this sample finished 13th, which is pretty impressive going and says a lot about the closing gap between the National League and the EFL.



Note: Numbers in some rows might not add up perfectly to 100% due to rounding.