Premier League Relegation: How Many Points Are Needed To Survive?

The 2022/23 Premier League season has seen one of the most exciting (or scary, depending on your team!) relegation battles for years. With just a handful of games remaining, there are at least eight teams still very much threatened by the drop, and arguably every team in the bottom half of the table is still at risk. But how many points does a side need to ensure their survival in the Premier League? Is the “magic 40 points” the benchmark every relegation-threatened team should aim form, or can they probably get away with significantly fewer?

In this article, we’ll take a look back at how many points were needed for survival over the years in the Premier League. Note that, to keep things nice and simple, we’ll ignore the first three Premier League seasons (when the division contained 22 teams) and we’ll stick to the 20-team campaigns from 1995/96 onwards. So, let’s dive into the stats.

Premier League Relegation Points Totals – 1995/96 to 2021/22

Season Points of 18th Place Side – Team Points of 17th Place Side – Team
1995/96 38 – Manchester City 38* – Southampton
1996/97 40 – Sunderland 41 – Coventry City
1997/98 40 – Bolton Wanderers 40* – Everton
1998/99 36 – Charlton Athletic 41 – Southampton
1999/2000 33 – Wimbledon 36 – Bradford City
2000/01 34 – Manchester City 42 – Derby County
2001/02 36 – Ipswich Town 40 – Sunderland
2002/03 42 – West Ham United 44 – Bolton Wanderers
2003/04 33 – Leicester City 39 – Everton
2004/05 33 – Crystal Palace 34 – West Bromwich Albion
2005/06 34 – Birmingham City 38 – Portsmouth
2006/07 38 – Sheffield United 38* – Wigan Athletic
2007/08 36 – Reading 36* – Fulham
2008/09 34 – Newcastle United 35 – Hull City
2009/10 30 – Burnley 35 – West Ham United
2010/11 39 – Birmingham City 40 – Wolverhampton Wanderers
2011/12 36 – Bolton Wanderers 37 – Queens Park Rangers
2012/13 36 – Wigan Athletic 39 – Sunderland
2013/14 33 – Norwich City 36 – West Bromwich Albion
2014/15 35 – Hull City 38 – Aston Villa
2015/16 37 – Newcastle United 39 – Sunderland
2016/17 34 – Hull City 40 – Watford
2017/18 33 – Swansea City 36 – Southampton
2018/19 34 – Cardiff City 36 – Brighton & Hove Albion
2019/20 34 – Bournemouth 35 – Aston Villa
2020/21 28 – Fulham 39 – Burnley
2021/22 35 – Burnley 38 – Leeds United

*Team stayed up on goal difference.

Average Number of Points for Premier League Survival

  • Average points total of teams finishing in 18th position: 35.22
  • Average points total of teams finishing in 17th position: 38.15

Based on the period covering the Premier League seasons 1995/96 to 2021/22, the average points total of a side finishing in 17th position in the top-flight table was 38.15. As three teams are relegated each season, finishing in 17th place is the lowest position required for a team to survive in the Premier League for another season.

The average points total of the highest-finishing relegated side (i.e. those finishing 18th) was 35.22, almost three points (or a win) fewer than sides finishing in 17th.

Narrowest Margin of Survival in the Premier League

Premier League Relegation 2006-07

In the stated period, sides finishing in 17th and 18th have finished on the same points total on four occasions. In these cases, the 17th-placed side stayed up on goal difference. The closest of all came in the 2006/07 season when Wigan Athletic and Sheffield United both ended the campaign with just 38 points in the bag. It all came down to the final game of the season… when, coincidentally, the sides played one another.

When Sheffield United hosted Wigan on 13th May 2007, it really was winner takes all. And it was the away side that was victorious, winning 2-1 and earning that crucial 17th position. The margin? Just a single goal, as Sheffield United finished with a goal difference of -23 compared to -22 for Wigan.

Lowest Points Total Of Team That Stayed Up

Premier League Relegation 2004-05

Teams have stayed in the top flight (in the period mentioned) having earned just 35 points on three occasions (Hull City in 2008/09, West Ham United in 2009/10 and Aston Villa in 2019/20). But in the 2004/05 campaign, West Bromwich Albion managed to avoid the drop with a rather meagre 34 points on the board. How was that possible when West Brom were so poor that season? Clearly the three teams that finished below them were even worse!

It was actually a close-run thing, though, with 18th-placed Crystal Palace and 19th-placed Norwich City both ending the campaign on 33 points, with rock-bottom Southampton finishing on 32.

Highest Points Total Of Relegated Team

Premier League Relegation 2002-03

A 40-point total is often mentioned by pundits and fans as the benchmark for safety in the Premier League. But actually teams have been relegated on 40 points (or more) on three occasions since the 1995/96 season: 1996/97, 1997/98 and 2002/03. The first two of those saw the 18th-place team end the campaign on exactly 40 points (Sunderland in 1996/96 and Bolton the following season). But in 2002/03, a team went down despite having amassed a fairly respectable total of 42 points. That rather unfortunate team was West Ham United.

The Hammers were seen as too good to go down for most of the season, despite having a very poor start when they lost four of their opening five games. The team included plenty of top players including David James, Jermain Defoe, Michael Carrick and Paolo Di Canio. But under the stewardship of Glenn Roeder (and, for the final few games Trevor Brooking), things didn’t really click. They finished the campaign well, winning half their final 14 games, but it proved too little too late for the Hammers and they were sent down to the second tier on a record total of 42 points.

Premier League Survival Points: Conclusions

Based on the stats above, hitting the 40-point mark would have guaranteed a team safety in the top flight in all but three of the seasons in question, and thus it is not a bad benchmark for sides to aim for. But, as West Ham, Sunderland and Bolton found out, even making it to 40 points doesn’t always beat the drop. And on the flip side, having an appalling season doesn’t necessarily condemn a side to demotion… you just need to make sure that there are at least three other side that are even worse!