Back-to-back promotions in football: list of clubs who have achieved feat to reach Premier League

Sunderland and Stockport County are aiming to achieve back-to-back promotions this season

Teams to win back-to-back promotions. (Getty Images)Teams to win back-to-back promotions. (Getty Images)
Teams to win back-to-back promotions. (Getty Images)

Winning promotion is an incredible achievement for any Football League club but adapting and thriving in a new division is a whole new challenge. 

Many newly promoted teams often struggle to make the jump up to a higher level of competition and most almost immediately find themselves in a relegation battle. Forest Green Rovers are one example of this and they were relegated back to League Two just 12 months after their title triumph.

However, the likes of Sunderland and Stockport County are notable examples of teams who have successfully made the jump up to a new division and both teams are vying for the remarkable achievement of back-to-back promotions ahead of their Championship and League Two play-offs.

National League champions Wrexham are tipped to follow a similar storyline next season and the Welsh football club, backed by their Hollywood owners are being tipped as the early favourites to win the League Two title in their first season back in the Football League.

But just how common are back-to-back promotions and who was the last side to achieve the feat?

Here we take a look back at some of the most memorable back-to-back promotions from the last 30 years of football.

Who was the last side to achieve back-to-back promotions?

Sunderland and Stockport County head into the play-offs with the hopes of winning back-to-back promotions and if they are to achieve the feat then they will be the first team to do so in the Football League since Luton Town in 2019.

The Hatters have enjoyed a sensational rise up the football ladder in recent years and they were competing in the National League during the 2013/14 campaign.

Luton won promotion that same season and Nathan Jones guided the club to the third tier of English football in the 2017/18 campaign with Luton finishing runners-up behind Accrington Stanley.

The Bedfordshire club continued to thrive in the third tier the next season, despite the mid-season departure of Nathan Jones and they lifted the League 1 title the following campaign with an incredible 94 points.

Luton are now targeting a fourth promotion in nine years in this season’s play-offs and they are hoping to reach the promised land of the Premier League.

Rob Edwards' side face off with Sunderland in the semi-final of the play-offs and are the first barrier that they will have to overcome if they are to achieve back-to-back promotions.

Luton were nearly founder members of the Premier League and they were relegated from the top division just a year earlier in 1991/92.

Which other clubs have achieved back to back promotions?

Achieving promotion is the pinnacle for many clubs outside the Premier League but a number of teams have achieved it twice in back to back seasons.

In total since 1992 there have been 18 instances of teams achieving back to back promotions. 

The most common example of this is teams making the immediate jump from the National League to League 1 and teams making the immediate jump from League 2 to the Championships and there are seven instances of both over the last 30 years.

Rotherham United have the special distinction of being the only club to achieve two separate back to back promotions. They won promotion from League Two to the Championship in 1999-2001 and 2012-2014.

Watford, Norwich and most recently Southampton are the only teams to win promotion from League 1 to the Premier League in back-to-back seasons

Here is a list of all the teams to achieve two consecutive promotions since the Premier League was formed in 1992

National League to League 1

  • Wycombe Wanderers: 1992-1994

  • Doncaster Rovers: 2002-2004 

  • Carlisle: 2004-2006

  • Exeter: 2007-2009

  •  Stevenage: 2009-2011

  • Crawley: 2010-2012  

  • Bristol Rovers: 2014-2016

League 2 to Championship

  • Bury: 1995-1997

  • Brighton: 2000-2002

  • Rotherham: 1999-2001

  • Peterborough: 2007-2009

  • Rotherham: 2012-2014

  • Burton Albion: 2014-2016

League 1 to Premier League

  • Watford: 1997-1999

  • Southampton: 2010-2012

  • Norwich: 2009-2011