||This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2008)|
In sports leagues, promotion and relegation is a process where teams are transferred between two divisions based on their performance for the completed season. The best-ranked teams in the lower division are promoted to the division above, and the worst-ranked teams in the higher division are relegated to the division below. In some leagues play-offs or qualifying rounds are also used to determine rankings. This process can continue through several levels, with teams being exchanged between levels 1 and 2, levels 2 and 3, levels 3 and 4, and so on. During the season, teams that are high enough in the table that they would qualify for promotion are sometimes said to be in the promotion zone, and those at the bottom are in the relegation zone (or, colloquially, the drop zone).
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 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 Football League Division One.
The system is said to be the defining characteristic of the "European" form of professional sports league organization. Promotion and relegation have the effect of allowing the maintenance of a hierarchy of leagues and/or 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.
Although not intrinsic to the system, problems can occur due to the differing monetary payouts and revenue-generating potential different divisions provide to their clubs. For example, financial hardship has sometimes occurred in leagues where clubs do not reduce their wage bill once relegated. This usually occurs for one of two reasons: first, the club can't move underperforming players on, or second, the club is gambling on being promoted back straight away and is prepared to take a financial loss for one or two seasons to do so. Some leagues (most notably English football's Premier League) offer "parachute payments" to its relegated teams for the following year(s). The payouts are higher than the prize money received by some non-relegated teams and are designed to soften the financial hit that clubs take whilst dropping out of the Premier League. However, in many cases these parachute payments just serve to inflate the costs of competing for promotion among the lower division clubs.
In some countries and at certain levels, 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.
An alternate system of league organisation which is used in the U.S., Canada and Australia is a closed model which always has the same teams playing, with occasional admission of expansion teams.
For example, here are the promotion and relegation rules for the top few levels of the English football league system:
The current promotion and relegation rules for the top two divisions of other major leagues are:
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).
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, has only been relegated once in their entire history at the end of the 1912–13 season, 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. English Northern Premier League Premier Division side Blyth Spartans had never been relegated in 113 years of existence until the end of the 2011-2012 season when they were relegated from the Conference North, although changing lower league structures have played a role in this.
Even fewer clubs have managed to avoid relegation entirely throughout their existence.
Since the formation of the Football League in 1888, every club which has played in the top flight has at least one relegation to their credit. 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:
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. 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 the majority of most teenage hockey players on Canadian junior teams are drafted out of "major junior", a semi-pro youth club system, with a growing number of players in the United States coming out of the NCAA's American collegiate programs, such as Hockey East. Although the NCAA is divided into three separate divisions (Divisions I, II, and III) and teams can voluntarily move up or down between the three, membership in a division is determined, among other things, by the number of athletic scholarships a school offers. In men's ice hockey, the NCAA only conducts championships in Divisions I and III; schools that are Division II members are allowed to play as Division I in that sport, with the same scholarship limits as full-time Division I schools.
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 association 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.
In baseball, the earliest American sport to develop professional leagues, the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) 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. As 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.
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.
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. The addition of a semi-final in 2004 eliminated the need for relegation.
Here you can share your comments or contribute with more information, content, resources or links about this topic.