- Promotion and relegation
In many sports leagues around the world, promotion and relegation is a process that takes place at the end of each season. Through it, teams are transferred between divisions based on their performance that season. The best-ranked teams in each division are promoted to the next-highest division, and at the same time, the worst-ranked teams in the higher division are relegated to the lower division. This process continues down through several levels, with teams being exchanged between levels 1 and 2, levels 2 and 3, levels 3 and 4, and so on. Sometimes, qualifying rounds are used to promote and relegate.
The number of teams exchanged between the divisions is normally identical. Exceptions occur when the higher division wishes to change the size of its membership, or has lost one or more of its clubs (to financial insolvency, for example) and wishes to restore its previous membership size, in which case fewer teams may be relegated from that division, or more accepted for promotion from the division below. Such variations will almost inevitably cause a "knock-on" effect through the lower divisions. For example, in 1995 the English Premier League voted to reduce its numbers by two and achieved the desired change by relegating four teams instead of the usual three, whilst allowing only two promotions from the Football League First Division.
The system is the defining characteristic of the "European" form of professional sports league organization. Promotion and relegation have the effect of maintaining a hierarchy of leagues and divisions, according to the relative strength of their teams. They also maintain the importance of games played by many low-ranked teams near the end of the season, which may be at risk of relegation. In contrast, a low-ranked U.S./Canadian team's final games serve little purpose, and in fact losing may be beneficial to such teams, yielding a better position in the next year's draft.
The downside of relegation, however, is the potential of severe economic hardship or bankruptcy for demoted clubs. Some leagues (most notably English football's Premier League) offer "parachute payments" to its relegated teams for the following year(s). The sums are often higher than the prize money received by some non-relegated teams, in order to protect the relegated teams from bankruptcy. Owners of promoted clubs gain a financial bonus.
Teams in line for promotion may have to satisfy certain non-playing conditions in order to be accepted by the higher league, such as financial solvency, stadium capacity, and facilities. If these are not satisfied, a lower-ranked team may be promoted in their place, or a team in the league above may be saved from relegation.
- 1 Structure
- 2 Non-relegation systems
- 3 Historical comparisons
- 4 In popular culture
- 5 External links
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes and references
For example, here are the promotion and relegation rules for the top few levels of the English football league system:
- Premier League (level 1, 20 teams): Bottom three teams relegated.
- Football League Championship (level 2, 24 teams): Top two automatically promoted; next four compete in the playoffs, with the winner gaining the third promotion spot. Bottom three relegated.
- Football League One (level 3, 24 teams): Top two automatically promoted; next four compete in playoffs, with the winner gaining the third promotion spot. Bottom four relegated.
- Football League Two (level 4, 24 teams): Top three automatically promoted; next four compete in playoffs, with the winner gaining the fourth promotion spot. Bottom two relegated.
- Conference National (level 5, 24 teams): Top team promoted; next four compete in playoffs, with the winner gaining the second promotion spot. Bottom four relegated, to either North or South division as appropriate.
- Conference North and Conference South (level 6, 22 teams each, running in parallel): Top team in each division automatically promoted; next four teams in each compete in playoffs, with playoff winner in each division getting the second promotion spot. Bottom three in each division relegated, to either Northern Premier League, Southern League, or Isthmian League as appropriate. If, after promotion and relegation, the number of teams in the North and South divisions are not equal, one or more teams are transferred between the two divisions to even them up again.
Other leagues structure
The current promotion and relegation rules for the top two divisions of other major leagues are:
- Argentine Primera División (Level 1, 20 teams): relegates the two teams with the lowest average points per match over a three year period, and teams placed 17th and 18th in the average points per match table play-off against the 3rd and 4th placed sides of that season's Nacional B table. The 1st and 2nd placed teams in the Nacional B are directly promoted to Primera Division, without a play-off.
- Brazilian Campeonato Brasileiro Série A: relegates four teams with lowest score to Campeonato Brasileiro Série B and promotes the first four from it.
- Spanish La Liga, French Ligue 1, Greek Super League: All relegate the bottom three teams, with the top three teams from the second divisions—respectively the Segunda División, Ligue 2, and the Football League—automatically promoted.
- German Bundesliga: From 2008-09, bottom two teams automatically relegated, top two teams from the Second Bundesliga automatically promoted. Third team from bottom of the First Bundesliga plays a two-legged playoff with the third-place team of the Second Bundesliga, with the winner playing in the First Bundesliga. This is a return to a previous system of promotion and relegation in Germany; in recent years, the system used in Spain, France, and Greece had been employed. It is also being adopted in Vietnam, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Japan
- Italian Serie A: Bottom three teams relegated. Top two teams from Serie B automatically promoted. If the difference between third and fourth place is less than ten points, the next four teams play off, with the winner gaining the third promotion spot; otherwise the third placed team is promoted. Until recently, the Italians had used the Brazilian process.
- Portuguese Primeira Liga and Russian Premier League: Bottom two teams relegated. Top two teams from the second divisions, respectively Liga de Honra and the National League Championship, automatically promoted.
- Romanian Liga I: Bottom four teams relegated. Top two teams from each of two divisions of Liga II automatically promoted.
- Dutch Eredivisie: Bottom team automatically relegated; top team in Eerste Divisie automatically promoted. The next two lowest Eredivisie teams enter a relatively complex play-off system with the eight best remaining teams from the Eerste Divisie (the six winners of six-match periodes plus the two best other teams); the two winners are promoted to or remain in the premier division.
- Scottish Premier League: Bottom team relegated and top team in Scottish First Division automatically promoted if its playing ground meets Premier League standards. Otherwise, the bottom team will remain in the Premier League.
- Spor Toto Super League: Bottom three teams relegated. Top two teams in Bank Asya 1. Lig automatically promoted, next four teams each compete in playoff, with playoff winner in this league getting the third promotion spot since 2005-2006 season.
Other relegation schemes consider points acquired over more than one season. For instance in the Argentine first division, the points average of the last three seasons is computed, and the two teams with the lowest averages are directly relegated. The 3rd and 4th from the bottom play home-and-away matches against the 3rd and 4th from the top of the second division respectively (a process called promoción), and the winner of each key stays in, or moves to, first division. Thus, the number of teams promoted each year varies between two and four. Newly-promoted teams only average the seasons since their last promotion (see 2003/2004 Argentine Relegation for an example).
- Uzbekistan Professional Football League: The bottom two teams in the Uzbek League are automatically relegated to the Uzbekistan 1-Division, and placed in the divided groups depending on the geographical coordination. After all the teams in the Uzbekistan 1st Division have played the maximum number of times, then the eight top teams gets a spot in the next round. At the next round, the 8 teams from the east and the west make one group, in which the teams from the same division do not play against each other. At the end of the season, the top two teams are promoted to the Uzbekistan Professional Football League. The teams ranked 9-12, make another group, in which the teams from the same division do not play against each other. At the end of the season, the bottom two teams are relegated.
While the purpose of the promotion/relegation system is to maintain competitive balance, it may also be used as a disciplinary tool in special cases. On several occasions, the Italian Football Federation has relegated clubs found to have been involved in match-fixing. This occurred most recently in 2006, when the season's initial champions Juventus were relegated to Serie B, and two other teams were initially relegated but then restored to Serie A after appeal (see 2006 Serie A scandal).
A small number of clubs have gone several decades without being relegated. Arsenal of England, for instance, have only been relegated once in their entire history, and have been in the top flight continuously since 1919 - by far the longest such run in English football. Not far behind Arsenal is Standard Liège of Belgium, which has also been relegated only once in its history and has maintained continuous top flight status since 1921.
Even fewer clubs have managed to avoid relegation entirely throughout their existence. Among them are:
Since the 1992 formation of the Premier League as the new top division in England, the following have never been relegated from the Premier League:
- Arsenal F.C., in top division continuously since 1919 (see above).
- Everton F.C., the next longest-serving top-flight members (1954)
- Liverpool F.C.
- Manchester United F.C.
- Tottenham Hotspur F.C.
- Aston Villa F.C.
- Chelsea F.C.
- Wigan Athletic F.C.
- Of these, only Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea have won the Premier League. Blackburn Rovers F.C. are the only other team to have won the Premier League (in 1994-95); however, they were relegated in 1998-99.
- PSG was founded in 1970 when Paris FC merged with Stade Saint-Germain, playing in Division 1 (now Ligue 1). In 1972, under political pressure from the Paris city council, the club split into professional and amateur sides. The professional team remained in the top flight as Paris FC, and the amateur side inherited the Paris Saint-Germain name but was forced into the third-tier Championnat National. PSG returned to the top flight after two consecutive promotions.
- Hamburger SV — the only club to have been in the Bundesliga constantly since its formation in 1963
- Bayern Munich (first promoted to Bundesliga in 1965)
- Bayer Leverkusen (first promoted to Bundesliga in 1979)
- Wolfsburg (first promoted to Bundesliga in 1997)
- 1899 Hoffenheim (first promoted to Bundesliga in 2008)
- The first four of these clubs were founding members of Alpha Ethniki, formed in 1959 and the predecessor to today's Superleague Greece. Xanthi were promoted to Alpha Ethniki for the first time in 1989 and Asteras Tripoli in 2007
Republic of Ireland:
- Bohemian F.C.
- St. Patrick's Athletic F.C.
- Internazionale avoided relegation in the 1921-22 season, when it finished last in its group in the CCI tournament. It would have been rightfully relegated to Seconda Divisione the following year, but a deep reform of the championship, with the merging of CCI and FIGC, prompted the organisation of some play-out matches between the two federation's teams. This format, controversial at the time, enabled Inter to win at the end and gain the right to play in the next year's top league.
- Ajax, Feyenoord, and PSV have been members of the Eredivisie since its formation in 1956. FC Utrecht was founded in 1970 as a merger of three clubs, of which DOS was also a charter member of the Eredivisie that had never been relegated.
- Lillestrøm Sportsklubb have not been relegated since 1967. They are the club with the most consecutive seasons in the Norwegian top division (since 1975).
- Dinamo and Steaua both started their inaugural seasons in the top-flight, and they were never relegated.
- FC Dynamo Moscow have never been relegated: neither from the Soviet Top League since its formation in 1936, nor from its successor, the Russian Premier League.
- FC Spartak Moscow have never been relegated from the Russian Premier League; it was relegated from the Soviet Top League only once in 1976.
- PFC CSKA Moscow - no relegations from the Russian Premier League; two relegations from the Soviet Top League (in 1984 and 1987).
- FC Lokomotiv Moscow
- FC Krylya Sovetov Samara
- Lokomotiv and Krylya Sovetov have never been relegated from the Russian Premier League, but were often relegated during the Soviet era.
- Celtic and Rangers were among the clubs that founded the original Scottish Football League in 1890; Aberdeen was promoted to the top flight in 1905, only one season after joining SFL's Division 2, and have finished bottom place on two occasions, 1917 (surviving a vote) and 2000 (reprieved from relegation due to Falkirk failing to meet Scottish Premier League stadium criteria).
- All three clubs were founding members of La Liga in 1929, and rank first, second, and fourth in the number of league championships won. Neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona has finished outside La Liga's top ten since Real Madrid's 11th place campaign in 1948; Barcelona's last season outside the top ten was a 12th place finish in 1942. Athletic Bilbao's most recent brush with relegation came in 2006-07, when their survival was not assured until the next-to-last week of the season.
- FC Dynamo Kyiv was never relegated in either the Soviet Top League under Soviet Union dominion and later in the Ukrainian Premier League in an independent Ukraine.
- FC Shakhtar Donetsk, last promoted to the STL in 1972, never relegated from UPL
- FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, last promoted to the STL in 1980, never relegated from UPL
- SC Tavriya Simferopol, de facto promoted from folding Soviet First League in 1991, never relegated from UPL
- Notes: Arsenal de Sarandí has never been relegated from the top flight, since first attaining top flight status in 2002. However, the club had previously been relegated in lower divisions.
- Cruzeiro, however came very close to being relegated in 1994 and 1997
- Flamengo, however came very close to being relegated in 2001, 2004 and 2005
- Internacional, however came very close to being relegated in 1990 and 2002
- Santos, however came very close to being relegated in 2008
- São Paulo, however came very close to being relegated in 1990
- Note: While Barcelona has never been relegated to the Serie B, they have not played every season of the Serie A. In 1967, a system of promotion/relegation was initiated with the creation of the Segunda Categoría (the then second level of football in Ecuador). Prior to that season, teams qualified to the Serie A (then known as the Campeonato Ecuatoriano de Fútbol) through their performance in one of two regional leagues. The 1964 season was the only time Barcelona did not participate in the national tournament because teams from Guayas, Barcelona's regional league, declined to participate.
- Shimizu S-Pulse have never been relegated from J. League Division 1; but, they were originally a franchised team created for the new league, and did not compete in the former Japan Soccer League.
- Kashima Antlers, Yokohama F. Marinos, Gamba Osaka and Nagoya Grampus have not been relegated during the J. League era, but they all suffered relegations in the old Japan Soccer League.
- JEF United Ichihara Chiba, under their old identity of Furukawa Electric F.C., were never relegated to the former Japan Soccer League Division 2. The club lasted 44 seasons in the Japanese top league before being relegated to Japan League Division 2 in 2009.
- Note: These teams have never been relegated to lower divisions; they were the teams playing the first season of the Uzbekistan Professional Football League. Bunyodkor, the exception, was promoted from the provincial league to the Uzbekistan 1st Division, and then to the Uzbekistan Professional Football League.
In the United States, Canada and Australia, teams are not promoted or relegated. Recently, the North American Soccer League, and the United Soccer Leagues of the United States, having teams from across the United States, and some teams from Canada, Puerto Rico, Bermuda and Antigua and Barbuda, discussed a relegation system. The USL set up two leagues, the PRO and the PDL. Although the system is now in place, it is not compulsory and is rarely used. Occasionally teams voluntarily relegate themselves for financial reasons, while the league promotes ambitious second division teams; teams have also been promoted to Major League Soccer (examples include the Montreal Impact and the Seattle Sounders). There is no relegation from Major League Soccer; the league cites the main reason as the nature of the franchise system. The owner has purchased the right to operate a major league team in a specific city, and relegation would in effect be a breach of that contract by the league. MLS has also had a steady pattern of expansion, much of which comes from promoted lower-level teams, negating the need for relegation.
In the United States, colleges, most notably the extensive and lucrative NCAA programs (rather than sport clubs as in Europe), act as the primary suppliers of players to two of the major professional team sports: American football and basketball. Baseball drafts players out of either college or high school, while most hockey players are drafted out of "major junior", a semi-pro youth club system, with a growing number of players coming out of American collegiate programs.
American/Canadian baseball and hockey do have lower-level professional leagues, referred to as minor leagues. Most of these teams affiliate with a major league team in player development contracts. Likewise the National Basketball Association has recently begun operating its own developmental league. The minor league system can be viewed as an informal relegation system based on individual players rather than teams. Players remain employees of (or, in the case of hockey, under contract to) the parent organization and are assigned to the minor league level appropriate to their skill and development. (In baseball, there are roughly five levels, known as Rookie, Short-Season A, A, AA, and AAA, with each major league team having one to three exclusively affiliated minor league teams at each level.) Skillful players are often promoted, or 'called up', to the parent major league team while under-performing players or players recovering from a major injury are 'sent down' to an affiliated minor league team. (Major league players recovering from injury are often sent to A or AA level teams, however, for reasons of geographical proximity, rather than level of competition; this is particularly true of teams based in California, Texas and Florida.) Transfers of players between various levels of minor leagues are also common. Such promotions and demotions, however, are not mandatory but are made at management's discretion, and may be made at any time during a season. There is one documented case of a modified promotion and relegation system in hockey, pertaining to the dissolution of the World Hockey Association: as part of the NHL–WHA merger, the top four WHA teams were "promoted" to the NHL (albeit not without being stripped of several million dollars and virtually their entire rosters), while the bottom two were relegated to the Central Hockey League, paid cash, and got to keep more of their players.
No gridiron football leagues in North America use the promotion and relegation system. Though teams in the indoor football leagues often jump from league to league on an annual basis, most of the indoor leagues are considered roughly on par with each other, and as such are not being promoted or relegated at all. The Iowa Barnstormers and Albany Firebirds, at least in name, were relegated from the top level Arena Football League down to its minor league, AF2, but the AFL and AF2 incarnations of each team were not the same legal entities. The only thing each team had in common with its counterpart was its market location and trademarks (it also, unlike the European model, had nothing to do with records). Iowa would later be brought back up to the top level in 2010 as part of a bankruptcy reorganization.
In 2006, the American Indoor Football League hastily and temporarily promoted three amateur teams (among them the Chambersburg Cardinals) to the professional ranks to fill holes in the schedule. Similarly, the 2009 New Jersey Revolution professional indoor football team left the Continental Indoor Football League and played an abbreviated three-game schedule, all against semi-pro teams, which were presumably paid for their appearances. In both cases, their promotion was a matter of proximity and convenience, and as such had nothing to do with the teams' finances or performance on the field; in all seven of the games that involved a semi-pro team and an indoor professional team, the professional team won decisively, with many of the games being shutouts (very rare in indoor football). These are the only known cases of an amateur team moving to the professional ranks since the formation of professional football in the early part of the 20th century.
Australia also does not feature any promotion and relegation systems in any of the major professional codes—Australian rules football, rugby union, rugby league, or football (soccer). Many amateur club competitions in these and other sports have them, but only with amateur ranks.
In Japan, the J. League uses a promotion and relegation system (for the first two divisions it is the same as the Spanish, French, and Greek systems above). But professional baseball does not, perhaps owing to American influence. Professional American football, despite being an American sport, uses a promotion and relegation system in Japan as well — which the now-defunct NFL Europa (due to its much smaller size, only six teams) did not have. Similar differences between football and baseball have become established in other East Asian countries where both games are played professionally, namely South Korea, China, and Taiwan.
Professional sumo wrestling, which is not a team sport at all, has promotion and relegation between ranks of individual wrestlers. A Yokozuna, or grand champion, however, can never be relegated once he has achieved the distinction; he is instead expected to retire when he is no longer competitive at the top level.
The Super League, a rugby league organization that operates in the United Kingdom with one team in France, abandoned the promotion and relegation system in favor of a licence system. While teams can still be promoted and relegated, their moves are not based solely on performance and are no longer automatic; instead, the league issues a number of licences based on a combination of performance and financial ability to compete at a top level. The licences are issued for three years.
Early baseball leagues in the United States
In baseball, the earliest American sport to develop professional leagues, the National Association of Base Ball Players was established in 1857 as a national governing body for the game. In many respects, it would resemble England's Football Association when founded in 1863. Both espoused strict amateurism in their early years and welcomed hundreds of clubs as members.
Baseball's National Association was not able to survive the onset of professionalism. It responded to the trend — clubs secretly paying or indirectly compensating players — by establishing a "professional" class for 1869. So quickly as 1871, most of those clubs broke away and formed the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NAPBBP). That new, professional Association was open at a modest fee, but it proved to be unstable. It was replaced by the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs in 1876, which has endured as of 2011. The founders of the new League judged that in order to prosper, they must make baseball's highest level of competition a "closed shop", with a strict limit on the number of teams, each member having exclusive local rights.
The modest National League guarantee of a place in the league year after year would permit the owners to monopolize fan bases in their exclusive territories and give them the confidence to invest in infrastructure, such as improved ballparks. In turn, those would guarantee the revenues to support traveling halfway across a continent for games. Indeed, after its first season, the new league banked on its still doubtful stability by expelling its members in New York and Philadelphia (the two largest cities), because they had breached agreements to visit the four western clubs at the end of the season.
The NL's dominance of baseball was challenged several times but only by entire leagues, after its first few years. Eight clubs, the established norm for a national league, was a prohibitively high threshold for a new venture. Two challengers succeeded beyond the short-term, with the National League fighting off a challenge from the American Association after a decade (concluded 1891). In 1903 it accepted parity with the American League and the formation of the organization that would become Major League Baseball. The peace agreement between the NL and the AL did not change the "closed shop" of top-level baseball but entrenched it by including the AL in the shop. This was further confirmed by the Supreme Court's 1922 ruling in Federal Baseball Club v. National League, giving MLB a legal monopoly over professional baseball.
Early football leagues in England
In contrast to baseball's NABBP, the first governing body in English football survived the onset of professionalism, which it formally accepted in 1885. Perhaps the great geographical concentration of population and the corresponding short distances between urban centres was crucial. Certainly it provided the opportunity for more clubs' developing large fan bases without incurring great travel costs. Professional football did not gain acceptance until after the turn of the 20th century in most of Southern England. The earliest league members travelled only through the Midlands and North.
When The Football League was founded in 1888, it was not intended to be a rival of The Football Association but rather the top competition within it. The new league was not universally accepted as England's top-calibre competition right away. To help win fans of clubs outside The Football League, its circuit was not closed; rather, a system was established in which the worst teams at the end of each season would need to win re-election against any clubs wishing to join.
A rival league, the Football Alliance, was formed in 1889. When the two merged in 1892, it was not on equal terms; rather, most of the Alliance clubs were put in the new Football League Second Division, whose best teams would move up to the First Division in place of its worst teams. Another merger, with the top division of the Southern League in 1920, helped form the Third Division in similar fashion. Since then no new league has been formed of non-league clubs to try to achieve parity with The Football League (only to play at a lower level, like independent professional leagues in American baseball today).
For decades, teams finishing near the bottom of The Football League's lowest division(s) faced re-election rather than automatic relegation. But the principle of promotion and relegation had been firmly established, and it eventually expanded to the football pyramid in place today. Meanwhile, The FA has remained English football's overall governing body, retaining amateur and professional clubs rather than breaking up.
In popular culture
From 1993 until 2003, the Eurovision Song Contest used various systems of relegation to reconcile the number of countries wishing to participate (approximately 30 at the time) with the number of performances allowed considering time constraints of a live television program (between 23 and 26). During the relegation era, low-ranking countries were required to skip a year, such that any country so relegated would be automatically qualified to compete the following year. The addition of a semi-final in 2004 eliminated the need for relegation.
- Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation Source for historical information on promoted and relegated soccer teams.
Notes and references
- ^ "Football", The Guardian. Article discusses the financial disparity between the Premier League and the Football League]
- ^ Both were associations of clubs despite their names.
- ^ At least one economically and competitively viable incumbent was excluded, the second of three 1875 clubs in Philadelphia.
- ^ For comparison, the distance between Boston and St. Louis, the longest road trip in Major League Baseball before 1953, is similar to that between Madrid and Frankfurt, or Rome and Amsterdam.
- ^ To emphasize this point, compare England with Texas. Today, England has 2.5 times the population of Texas, with slightly less than one-fifth of Texas' land area.
- ^ The modern regions that encompass the Midlands and North—the East Midlands, West Midlands, North East England, North West England, and Yorkshire and the Humber—have a combined land area slightly larger than that of West Virginia, Latvia, or Lithuania.
- ^ The details of this system are still under development as of ßeta Patch 6 on March 25th, 2010
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