3D Yo-Yos

Premier League Yo-Yo Clubs: Which Clubs Have Had the Most Promotions and Relegations

The Premier League is one of the most exciting football leagues on the planet. The big boys battle it out for the title every year, while reaching the top four and securing a UEFA Champions League spot has become an obsession for the big hitters. The Premier League is not all about the glitz and glamour of the upper echelons, though.

The fight for survival is just as captivating, as staying in the top flight is vital for the smaller clubs with the huge financial rewards and exposure it brings. While some clubs have gained promotion and never looked back, others sides just cannot establish themselves in the big time. Here we take a look at the Premier League’s so called yo-yo clubs. These are the ones that just seem to bounce around between the top two divisions, regularly too good for the Championship but usually not quite good enough for the Premier League.

The Premier League Yo-yo Clubs

Over the years several clubs have struggled to nail down a place in the Premier League after winning promotion. Even the mighty Man City have spent five seasons away from the top tier since the Premier League’s inception. In fact, City were relegated from the Premier League in 1996, relegated from the second tier in 1998, secured back-to-back promotions in 1999 and 2000 … before being instantly relegated in 2001. And then bouncing straight back in 2001! Yo-yo-tastic!

Newcastle United and Aston Villa have both had three seasons in the Championship, while 2016 Premier League winners Leicester have only taken part in 14 of the 28 completed top flight campaigns to date.

Sides like these may have dropped in and out of the top flight a few times but some teams find themselves yo-yoing from the Premier League to the Championship on a truly regular basis. In recent years, sides like Norwich City, Fulham and West Bromwich Albion are not sure whether they are coming or going, while the likes of Hull City and Sunderland have now spent years away after a series of promotions and relegations.

Club Premier League Relegations Championship Promotions
West Brom 5 5
Norwich City 5 5
Crystal Palace 4 4
Sunderland 4 4
Watford 3 4
Birmingham City 3 3
Leicester City 3 4
Fulham 3 3
Hull City 3 3
Wolves 2 3
Cardiff City 2 2

West Bromwich Albion: Baggies the Epitome of a Yo-yo Club

West Brom have arguably been the Premier League’s main yo-yo club. The Midlands outfit were promoted to the Premier League on four occasions from 2002 (which was their first season in the EPL) and 2010. After their promotion in 2010, the Baggies stayed in the top tier for eight years until relegation at the end of 2017-18 season. As of the end of the 2020-21 season, they have been relegated 12 times and promoted 11 times, with almost a third of those 23 changes of division (seven) coming in that rollercoaster period of 2002-2010.

West Brom won promotion back to the Premier League in 2020 but the Championship beckons again in 2021-22. For whatever reason, be it psychological, financial or just bad luck, the Baggies seem unable to really establish themselves in the Premier League. From 2010-2011 to 2012-2013 they enjoyed their best ever spell, finishing 11th, 10th and eighth but then almost dropped out of the top division in 2014 when they finished 17th.

Fans must have thought that was a blip and that their side would finally establish themselves as a top flight force when they finished 13th, 14 and 10th in the three subsequent campaigns. But in 2017-18 they finished rock bottom and so the yo-yo cycle began again.

Norwich City: Most Relegated Premier League Side

Norwich have been relegated from the Premier League on five occasions, which is the joint record number since the new top flight era began in 1992-93. Since 2003-04 they have been a particularly bouncy yo-yo team, changing divisions that season, then a further eight times culminating in taking themselves into the Premier League as Championship champions in 2018-19.

The Canaries dropped out of the top tier at the end of the 2019-20 season, but Daniel Farke’s men gained promotion at the end of the 2020-21 campaign. Survival will be a different question entirely, although it must be hoped that Farke and the club’s owners have learnt at least some lessons since they were last in the PL.

Crystal Palace: Eagles Now PL Regulars

In the early years of the Premier League, Crystal Palace found it tough to hold down a place in the top tier. The Eagles have been relegated from the PL after one season four times, including at the end of the inaugural campaign in 1992-93. Immediate promotion followed before an instant return to the second tier the season after that. They spent two seasons in the old Division One (now Championship) before a solitary top flight campaign in 1997-98.

A little more toing and froing would follow but Palace spent eight straight seasons in the Championship from 2005-06. However, since promotion in 2013, Crystal Palace have stayed in the top division, really establishing themselves as a Premier League side. They have endured some wobbles during the various seasons but their 15th place finish in 2015-16 is their worst performance in their current spell in the top flight.

Sunderland: Four Relegations for Black Cats

It may surprise younger fans but Sunderland have spent more years in the top flight than 2016 winners Leicester. On the other side of the coin they have also been relegated from the Premier League four times. The last of those relegations came in 2017 when the Black Cats finished bottom.

Sunderland, who ply their trade in EFL League One at the time of writing, are arguably the biggest club currently away from the top tier of English football and almost certainly the biggest outside the top two divisions.

Watford: Topsy-Turvy Time for Hornets

For a long time the Hornets have bounced around the various divisions. In the 1970s they spent time in the second, third and fourth tiers of English football, flipping between the top two during the 1980s and 1990s. Watford had really failed to hold down a Premier League place since their promotion back to the top tier of English football in 1999. That was a season-long stay, as was their stint in 2006-07.

Over the past two decades or so, the Hornets have suffered three relegations from the Premier League. In the 21st century things improved and following promotion to the top flight in 2015, Watford were beginning to look like a permanent fixture, finishing 11th in 2018-19. However, after a five-year stay, the Hertfordshire club were relegated to the Championship at the end of the 2019-20 season. However, they made a swift return to the big time after 2020-21 just like Norwich, but, just like the Canaries, will they have learned enough to stay up this time around?

Birmingham City: 12 Promotions & 12 Relegations

Birmingham City are the most promoted and relegated team from the top flight in English football history. That unwanted record includes the pre-Premier League era as well but the Blues are most certainly a true yo-yo side.

Over the years, the club rom the second city have been promoted 12 times and suffered 12 relegations from the top tier. Since dropping out of the Premier League in 2011, Birmingham have never regained their top-flight status. From 2006 to 2009, City were promoted and relegated twice.

Leicester City: Four Spells in Top Tier for Foxes

Leicester are beginning to establish themselves as a top six side, let alone merely a Premier League one. However, in the first decade of the Premier League, Leicester had three separate spells in the top flight.

They spent 10 long years away from the top tier until winning promotion in 2014, being ever-present since. Along with Man City, Leicester have won the Premier League title and also been relegated, something also achieved by Blackburn Rovers (who are currently in the Championship).

Fulham – Can Cottagers Stay in the PL?

Fulham have been one of the Premier League’s yo-yo clubs in recent years and like West Brom seem a little too good for the Championship but not quite able to compete with their many London rivals in the Premier League.

After winning promotion as Division One champions in 2001, the Londoners stayed in the Premier League for 13 years and fans will have begun to feel they were a top-flight fixture. The Cottagers have completed 14 seasons in the Premier League in total, a decent record for a relatively small club, it should be said. Fans disillusioned with their yo-yo performances would do well to remember that as recently as 1997 they were in the fourth tier of English football. Even so, they have suffered relegation twice more since going down in 2013-14.

They first bounced back in 2018 but only lasted one season before another promotion in 2020 via the play-offs. After being embroiled in another relegation scrap in 2020-21, Scott Parker was unable keep them in the top tier for more than one season. They have work to do but if they can get back to the top division, the west London club will feel they have a real chance to establish themselves in the Premier League and put an end to the yo-yoing if they do.

Hull City: Three Promotions & Relegations for Tigers

Hull City have been promoted three times and suffered three relegations from the Premier League. They were first promoted as 2008 Championship play-off winners, and their last season in the top tier was the 2016-17 campaign.

At the time of writing, the Tigers are a Championship team once more after winning League One in 2020-21. This followed relegation from the 2019-20 Championship.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Wolves Now Settled in Top Tier

Wolverhampton Wanderers were a famous yo-yo clubs in the 1980s, but the Midlands outfit have now settled in the Premier League under the popular Nuno Espirito Santo.

After winning promotion in 2004, Wanderers spent five seasons in England’s top division before dropping out at the end of the 2008-09 campaign. Wolves have been back in the top tier since 2018 and look set to stay there for the foreseeable future thanks to decent backing and a good structure off the pitch.

Cardiff City: Two Unsuccessful Seasons in Premier League

Cardiff City may be a Welsh club, but the Bluebirds are one of the most promoted and relegated clubs in English football history. In fact, only Notts County and Grimsby Town have been involved in more promotions and relegations overall.

Cardiff have been promoted to the Premier League twice, lasting just one season on both occasions. The Bluebirds have been one of the Championship’s best teams over the past decade but have failed to cut the mustard in the Premier League. Fans will feel it is only a matter of time before they secure a PL place once again but even if they do, will they be able to last?

Full List of Clubs Who Have Been Relegated from the Premier League More than Once

Out of the 49 clubs who have played in the Premier League, 25 of those have been promoted and relegated more than once. The likes of Man City, Newcastle, West Ham United, Southampton, Middlesbrough and Burnley have been promoted and relegated on more than one occasion. Given where City are now and how well established in the top flight West Ham, Burnley and Southampton seem, that should give hope to fans of any yo-yo sides out there.

Man City, Leicester and Blackburn are the only clubs to have won the PL and also experienced relegation from it. Manchester City, who know a thing or two about relegation, have five wins with Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City each having one win to their name.

The table below shows all the clubs that have had multiple relegations from the Premier League. The total is up to and including the 2020-21 season.

Club Seasons in EPL Last Promotion Last Relegation
Newcastle Utd 25 2016-17 2015-16
West Ham 24 2011-12 2010-11
Manchester City 23 2001-02 2000-01
Southampton 21 2011-12 2004-05
Blackburn Rovers 18 1998-99 2011-12
Sunderland 16 2006-07 2016-17
Middlesbrough 15 2015-16 2016-17
Leicester City 14 2013-14 2003-04
Fulham 14 2019-20 2020-21
Bolton Wanderers 13 2000-01 2011-12
West Brom 12 2019-20 2020-21
Crystal Palace 11 2012-13 2004-05
Norwich City 9 2020-21 2019-20
Charlton Athletic 8 1999-00 2006-07
Queens Park Rangers 7 2013-14 2014-15
Birmingham City 7 2008-09 2010-11
Derby County 7 2006-07 2007-08
Watford 7 2020-21 2019-20
Wolves 6 2017-18 2011-12
Burnley 6 2015-16 2014-15
Ipswich Town 5 1999-00 2001-02
Hull City 5 2015-16 2016-17
Sheffield Utd 4 2018-19 2020-21
Reading 3 2011-12 2012-13
Cardiff City 2 2017-18 2018-19

The One-season Wonders

There are a number of sides that are not yo-yo teams but equally have really struggled in the Premier League after arriving from the second tier. The jump up in quality to the Premier League is huge and has caught out a number of sides throughout the years.

Some teams have stormed to the EFL Championship title only to be relegated back down after just one season in the top flight, never to be seen at English football’s top table ever again (at least not yet!). Somewhat surprisingly, only Swindon Town, Barnsley and Blackpool have spent just one season in the Premier League. At the time of writing Barnsley are the most likely change that with Tykes being regularly challenging for Championship promotion.

Swindon Town – Robins Ship 100 Goals

Season Pos. P W D L GF GA GD Pts.
1993-94 22nd 42 5 15 22 47 100 -53 30

After winning promotion as Division One play-off winners in 1993, Swindon Town were part of the 1993-94 EPL season, which was the second campaign of the Premier League. However, it was a pretty disastrous year for the Robins, who finished rock bottom of the division with just 30 points to their name. Swindon won just five times and shipped 100 goals along the way.

Barnsley – 23 Defeats Sends Tykes Slip Back Down

Season Pos. P W D L GF GA GD Pts.
1997-98 19th 38 10 5 23 37 82 -45 35

At the end of the 1996-97 season, Barnsley were promoted to the Premier League after finishing runners-up in Division One. However, their joy was short lived as they were relegated back to the Football League after just one season. The Tykes finished 19th, winning 10, drawing five and losing 23.

However, we could see the Yorkshire side back in the top tier in the near future. Given their budget and the fact most pundits tipped them for relegation before a ball was kicked, that would be some achievement. That said, should they make it, it is safe to say that those same pundits would quickly make them favourites for an instant return to the second tier!

Blackpool – Holloway’s Tangerines Last Just One Season

Season Pos. P W D L GF GA GD Pts.
2010-11 19th 38 10 9 19 55 78 -23 39

The third and final Premier League one-season wonder is Blackpool. Under the unmistakeable Ian Holloway, Pool shocked the EFL Championship by beating Cardiff City in the 2010 play-off final. Before a ball was kicked that season, Blackpool were one of the favourites for Championship relegation.

To their credit, the Tangerines had a real go in the Premier League, collecting a respectable 39 points along the way. However, they were relegated on the final day after defeat at Old Trafford.

The Premier League Ever-Presents

As we touched on, 49 teams have featured in the top tier of English football since the Premier League was founded at the start of the 1992-93 season. Out of those 49, only six sides have participated in every Premier League season to date. These fortunate clubs are essentially the true opposite of yo-yo sides, firmly fixed at the top of the football ladder.

Club Highest Position Lowest Position
Manchester United 1st (13 occasions) 7th (2013-14)
Chelsea 1st (5 occasions) 14th (1993-94)
Arsenal 1st (3 occasions) 12th (1994-95)
Liverpool 1st (2019-20) 8th (3 occasions)
Tottenham Hotspur 2nd (2016-17) 15th (1993-94)
Everton 17th (3 occasions) 4th (2004-05)

Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool – who have all won the Premier League at some point – have been ever-present. Tottenham Hotspur and Everton are the other two teams who have played in every PL season. Both Spurs and the Toffees have never lifted the Premier League trophy but on the plus side their last relegations were in 1977 and 1951 respectively. These aren’t best odds for glory and clearly any club outside the very elite is far more likely to be relegated than they are to claim the title.

Despite not winning the title since the Alex Ferguson days back in 2013, Manchester United remain the Premier League’s most successful club by quite some distance. The Red Devils have won a staggering 13 Premier League titles in their rich history. The Manchester giants have also won it three years in a row on two separate occasions. Chelsea are the second most successful team, picking up five titles, Arsenal have lifted the trophy three times and Liverpool have one Premier League title to their name.