Matchweek Moments: Have All Three Promoted Teams Ever Avoided Immediate Relegation?
By Ian Katan
At the conclusion of this past weekend’s round of games, the relegation zone consisted of Southampton, Everton, and level on points in 18th are Leicester City, Leeds and Nottingham Forest. Bournemouth and Fulham, the other two teams joining Forest in promotion last season, are respectively sitting nine and 14 points clear of returning to the Championship. This means that the three teams promoted to this year’s edition of the Premier League might all avoid dropping right back down.
Has this ever happened before? Yes. In fact, since the FA’s restructuring and creation of the Premier League in 1992, three campaigns have seen all newly-promoted teams avoid immediate relegation.
First in the 2001/02 season, Fulham, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers all secured a second year in the top flight after being promoted in 2000/01. Fulham and Blackburn both sat comfortably in midtable that year, and Bolton squeezed by with just four points between them and relegation. Blackburn and Fulham even managed to compete in the UEFA Cup, now called the Europa League, though neither got past the third round. Fulham also qualified for the now defunct Intertoto Cup, though this was a controversial competition that many clubs above them in the table elected not to participate in, thus giving Fulham the chance to qualify.
10 years later, Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City and Swansea City stayed up in the 2011/12 season. Again, two of the teams had respectable midtable finishes while QPR narrowly saved themselves by only a single point. QPR’s luck wouldn’t hold out the next season, and they were relegated dead last at the end of 2012/13.
Finally, in 2017/18, Newcastle, Brighton, and Huddersfield Town all earned their second seasons in the Premier League. While Huddersfield’s last place finish the next year meant they only lasted two campaigns at the top, Newcastle and Brighton have gone on to have much more success. Both of these clubs have seen incredible growth in the five seasons since being promoted, making relegation the least of their worries. Newcastle have all but secured a top four finish this season, and Brighton are still in the race for European football. The Seagulls also made a strong run to the FA Cup semifinals and showed they are a seriously underrated side.
Staying up is an extremely impressive feat for a newly promoted side, and should always be considered a success even if they are relegated the following year like QPR or Huddersfield. After a grueling 46 game Championship season, potentially more if teams qualify through the playoffs, clubs can earn well over $100 million as a result of promotion to the top flight.
Being rewarded with this cash allows for promoted teams and their smaller budgets to compete with established clubs and have financial safety nets in case of relegation. Earning a second year at the top gives them access to another season of income from TV rights, sponsorships, fan attention, and much more, and is incredibly valuable for any team.
As a result of their massively different bank accounts, newly promoted sides often struggle to compete against current Premier League clubs, making it fairly common for new sides to fall right back down. This raises huge issues for Southampton, Everton, and any of the other longtime top level clubs caught up in the chaos at the bottom of the table as they’ve had years to build their squads and finances to ensure stability at the highest level, yet they’ve squandered this head start. It also makes Fulham, Bournemouth, and potentially Nottingham Forest’s feats even more impressive.
While Nottingham Forest have the worst goal difference and are currently sitting in a relegation spot despite being tied for points with two other sides, all hope is not lost. They have the most favorable end of season fixtures compared to those around them, only having to play one team currently in the top half of the table.
If they are able to avoid a return to the Championship, Forest would join Fulham and Bournemouth as only the fourth set of promoted teams to escape relegation in their first season. Their presence would bring welcomed variation to the league and serve as a reminder to all that just because a team is in its first season at the top, that doesn’t always mean they’re headed back to relegation.