SPL Relegation – How many points?

The English media often make reference to the “40 points” total which should see a team avoid relegation from the English Premier League (though try telling that to West Ham, who went down with 42 points in 2002/03).  But what about up here?  How many points does a team need to stay in the SPL?

Theoretically a team could be relegated with 57 points, but in practice the total will never be anywhere near as high.  The best indicator is to look at what has happened in previous seasons.  This is not a foolproof method  – there is always the chance of a freak season – but it allows us to see what usually happens.  The SPL has been in its current 12 team format with a single relegation place since 2000/01, so this is the period which will be examined.


Which points total to use?

We are instantly faced with the question of which points total to use.  Last season, Hamilton were relegated with 26 points, while 11th placed St Mirren finished with 33 points.  Even if Hamilton had earned 32 points, they would still have been relegated.  Alternatively, St Mirren could have finished with 27 points and still stayed in the league.  To get around this problem, each season is plotted with a solid block between the totals for 11th and 12th, rather than with a single value.


How many points?

The graph shows each season since 2000/01, with the points totals for the 11th and 12th placed clubs labelled.  Gretna were deducted 10 points for entering administration in 2007/08, so their total with and without the deduction has been included.

We can see that the highest total for a relegated side was 37 (Inverness in 2008/09) while the lowest total for an 11th placed side was 32 (Dundee United in 2002/03).  The mean total for the 11th placed side was 35.1 points, while the mean for the 12th placed side was 26.8 (or 27.7 without Gretna’s deduction).



No team who has picked up 38 points has ever been relegated from the SPL, so perhaps this could be considered the magic number for survival.  It is very easy to convince yourself that this seems satisfactory, because it equates to picking up exactly a point per game.Any team who has finished on a total less than 32 points has finished bottom of the SPL.

This would suggest that a team who wants to remain in the league should set themselves a target of 38 points to ensure their safety, but should also have an absolute minimum target of 32 points to at least give themselves a fighting chance.  There would, of course, still be the possibility of “doing a West Ham”, but with only one relegation place instead of three, that situation would be less likely to occur in Scotland.

About SPLstats
Providing statistics and trivia about Scottish football. Main focus is the SPL, but all Scottish football will be covered. Not affiliated to the SPL.

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