The modern age – it seems like every day we wake up to some new idea or technological development which is designed to make our lives easier.
For those attending football matches or any events held in sports arenas, cashless stadiums seem to be the next stage in the evolution of the fan experience.
In an era where more and more of our daily lives and operational functions become tied to our mobile phone, it’s no surprise an app will now be central to our activities at some stadiums.
Queens Park Rangers introduced the QPR Pay app which will be in use from the start of next season (2019/20). The venue, which holds over 18,000 fans for a football game, will use the QPR Pay app for admission to matches – at the turnstile, you simply scan your ticket’s barcode from the app on your phone – as well as at all sale points, whether it be food, beverages or club merchandise.
The app will be available to QPR season ticket holders and official club members. The club stated that: “we are the first professional football club in the UK to launch an integrated payment solution, which does not require supporters to prefund the card.”
The card will also be an actual Mastercard so it can be used by fans at any facility which accepts Mastercard, as long as they have linked the QPR Pay card to their bank account.
The club’s Commercial Director Euan Inglis commented to the official QPR site that: “We have been working on the QPR pay product for nearly a year now. The product is a first of its kind in football, with the fully integrated real-time payment option particularly exciting as this will allow our season ticket holders and Members to benefit with the award of additional QPR Cash from their third-party spending. We see QPR Pay as the start of a planned digital roll out over the coming seasons. QPR Pay will very much act as an interface to new bolt-on technology that is currently in the pipeline.”
Up in Manchester, Bury implemented cashless payments at Gigg Lane back in October 2017. Thanks largely to their collaboration with shirt sponsor, tappit, Bury introduced a fan card which could have funds pre-paid onto it before attending the venue. Then, at Gigg Lane, you simply had to “tappit” at all pay points to use the pre-loaded cash on your card for any purchases at the venue.
The QPR Pay card doesn’t require you to ‘lodge’ money onto a fan card, however. It’s a fully fledged Mastercard in its own right. Just link it to your bank account and away you go.
In the US, Atlanta United rolled out the cashless facility for their home opener to the MLS season in their 1-1 draw with FC Cincinnati.
Atlanta United share the Mercedes-Benz Stadium with NFL side Atlanta Falcons. The stadium is now officially the first to go cashless in the MLS and the NFL.
All transactions within the Mercedes-Benz Stadium will now be made via credit cards, debit cards or mobile payment methods. There will be some kiosks available for fans who would prefer to prepay cash onto Visa debit cards that they can then use within the stadium.
Stadium officials reported last Sunday’s rollout of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s new cashless transaction system as a success. Apparently, it all went pretty well with no reports of any major issues with the operation. Also, Atlanta United reported that only a very small number of fans were using the cash-to-card kiosks.
As reported in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, there were no hiccups of note. Stadium spokesperson Heather Sautter said the cashless system “went very smoothly” and stadium officials were “pleased with the progress”.
Importantly, Sautter disclosed that the number of transactions completed before and during the match was in line with the average numbers from last season. Therefore, it appears the Atlanta United fans were not deterred by the change. Also, less than one per cent of the 70,000-plus crowd actually used the cash-to-card kiosks.
Speaking to InsiderSport, when asked what they feel the benefits of a cashless stadium would be, a Mercedes-Benz Stadium spokesperson stated: “From the beginning, the organization’s commitment has been to the fan and creating a world-class experience. Our commitment stands strong. We are constantly evaluating how we can create improvements in the fan experience year over year; from finding savings on operational efficiencies to speeding transaction times to minimise wait times.
“Implementing a card and mobile payment only transaction model allows MBS the opportunity to improve the speed of service and efficiency as well as allowing stadium officials to adjust prices on food and beverage options more regularly and provide the flexibility to lower prices incrementally on more items.”
Emphasising the immediate advantages for the fans, they added: “Our goal is to always improve to enhance our fan’s experience both inside and outside the stadium. Cutting seconds off wait times maximizes the fan’s enjoyment of the experience. We’d rather have you in your seat than waiting in line.”
Cashless stadiums have not taken off as of yet in the UK. However, if clubs like Atlanta United and QPR give glowing references to the system after a full season of use then watch the trend take off.
A reliable cashless system could benefit everyone. Ideally, transactions would be quicker with a tap-and-go method in use. Fans wouldn’t have to worry about getting to an ATM before the game.
There will be many interested parties watching on for reports from QPR’s Loftus Road and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
In five years time, cashless stadiums may well be the norm, in the Premier League at least.