How does Premier League relegation and promotion work?

Southampton seem destined to slip into the Championship
Southampton seem destined to slip into the Championship / Matt McNulty/GettyImages

For 56 hours in April 2021, there was the genuine threat of closed competition for a gaggle of greedy clubs that believed they were above the jeopardy of relegation and promotion.

While a smattering of one-eyed institutions on the continent still cling to the European Super League's bloated corpse, every Premier League team associated with the misadventure has long since withdrawn into the familiar embrace of the English footballing pyramid.

As the protracted 2022/23 campaign chugs towards its conclusion, here's how the top two tiers will naturally restructure themselves over the coming weeks.

How does relegation work in the Premier League?

Since England's top flight was whittled down to a sleek 20-team division in 1995, the three clubs that prop up the table - sitting in 18th, 19th and 20th - by the end of the season are automatically relegated to the Championship, England's second tier.

Unlike their counterparts in Germany, there is no reprieve of a relegation playoff spot. After playing each Premier League side twice - home and away - the three teams with the fewest points are relegated.

If two clubs are level on points, the first tie-breaker in the Premier League is goal difference; the number of goals scored by the team in question minus the tally conceded. If the goal difference of both sides is also equal, goals scored is the next decisive factor before comparing the head-to-head records.

In the unlikely event that none of the above can separate two sides straddling the relegation zone, a play-off on a neutral ground will take place.

Current Premier League table, top scorers & upcoming fixtures


How does promotion to the Premier League work?

Three Championship teams have to fill the slots vacated by the Premier League's relegated clubs each year. The first two places are taken by the teams that finish in the top two of England's second tier.

The final promotion spot is snatched up by the side that can successfully navigate the Championship playoff system. The four clubs that finish immediately below the two automatic promotion spots - teams between third and sixth - enter into a mini-tournament at the end of the regular season.

The teams that finished third and sixth meet as well as fourth and fifth go head-to-head in a pair of two-legged semi-finals. The winner of each tie then faces off at Wembley in a contest crassly dubbed the richest match in football given the gargantuan financial benefits of reaching the Premier League.


On this edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott SaundersGraeme Bailey & Toby Cudworth discuss the possibility of Neymar joining Newcastle, Jude Bellingham's decision on his future and Lionel Messi leaving PSG.

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