Promotion from the 1st Division – How many points?

With only one promotion place up for grabs, the 1st Division is notoriously competitive.  If a team has aspirations of promotion, what points target should they be aiming for?

It would be possible to get promoted with 36 points if every single game in the season was drawn, but obviously this is not a likely prospect!  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 current situation of a 12 team SPL with a 10 team SFL below it has been in place since 2000/01, so this is the period which will be analysed.

Which points total to use?

Like in the scenario with SPL relegation, we are faced with the question of which points total to use.  Last season, Dunfermline were promoted with 70 points, while 2nd placed Raith Rovers finished with 60 points.  Even if Dunfermline had finished up with 61 points, they would still have been promoted.  Alternatively, Raith could have finished with 69 points and still not have earned promotion.  To get around this problem, each season is plotted with a solid block between the totals for 1st and 2nd, rather than with a single value.

How many points?

The graph shows each season since 2000/01, with the points totals for the 1st and 2nd placed clubs labelled.  Dundee were deducted 25 points for entering administration last season, and without this deduction would have finished 2nd, so their “true” total (69) has been included along with Raith’s 60.

We can see that the lowest total for a promoted side was 65 (St Johnstone in 2008/09) while the highest total for a 2nd placed side was 72 (Clyde in 2002/03).  Curiously, these are the same seasons as the highest SPL relegation total and lowest SPL safety total respectively.  The mean total for the 1st placed side was 72.1 points, while the mean for the 2nd placed side was 63.8 (or 64.6 without Dundee’s deduction).


No team who has earned more than 72 points has ever missed out on promotion to the SPL, which matches up very nicely to the average points tally of 72.1 for the title winners.  It would appear that a team should set themselves a target of 73 points to secure promotion.  Conversely, no team who has earned less than 65 points has ever been promoted, so this should be the absolute minimum target to give yourselves at least some chance of making it to the promised land.

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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