Managing COVID-19 Via Technology
In Focus: TicketCo
Football clubs face a multitude of challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Stadium closures, postponements, reduced revenues, and overall well-being concerns have hit football globally. TicketCo UK Country Manager David Kenny explains how football clubs can use technology to help ensure stadiums are safe this season, via digital Track and Trace and contactless solutions.
It is likely the whole of the new football season could be played in front of reduced capacities.
Recent pilots for the return of crowds to sporting events in the England took place with a cricket friendly at The Oval and Edgbaston, plus the World Snooker Championship and Glorious Goodwood.
At the time of writing, and ahead of the official findings, the initial signs were encouraging in terms of crowd management, venue configuration and hygiene. However, Professor James Calder, who has chaired a cross-party working group with government and health officials on the return to sport warned a return to full crowds was unlikely until a vaccine is available.
Football clubs will of course have followed the various changes we have all experienced in retail, leisure, and hospitality in recent weeks and introduce hygiene regimes and social distancing measures into stadiums as standard.
But what else can be done? How can football clubs maximise existing technology to further strengthen the safety of stadiums and satisfy the authorities and supporters all avenues have been maximised?
Track and Trace
One key area that would significantly assist in demonstrating to the UK government football clubs are prepared to manage crowds, albeit on a reduced capacity, would be to maintain a robust track and trace system.
Track and trace was introduced as social and economic lockdown measures eased. It requires venues to keep a temporary record of all visitors for 21 days to assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed. This could help prevent localised outbreaks.
Maintaining such records and sharing with NHS Test and Trace if requested can help identify people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. This can help avoid its spread and the reintroduction of lockdown measures.
The current government guidance is ambiguous on whether stadiums would have to manage a track and trace system, but it is a strong possibility that it will be required. Currently the hospitality, tourism and leisure industries are required to maintain such systems. On this basis it would be prudent for football clubs to prepare a reliable track and trace system.
Using data from season tickets and matchday ticket sales would be an obvious first thought. However, it is impossible to guarantee season tickets and matchday tickets have not been shared with family or friends on the day. Therefore, it would not be a robust solution and government would demand a system that ensures each visitor signs into the stadium.
Many pubs and restaurants have for example requested guests sign in when they visit, with most using an old-fashioned pen and paper method. But in the modern era technology can and should hold the solution.
On the TicketCo digital payment platform we have a function that holds the key to this issue. Our traceability feature can enable football clubs to accurately record the details of everyone who enters the stadium. It works by scanning the ID of the supporter, or colleague when they enter the stadium, via a smartphone or tablet. The information would then be stored in accordance with GDPR regulation for the period required by government for tracing. Once the time frame expires the data would automatically be deleted via an automated process.
This technology removes the requirement for visitors to fill in forms via paper and pen and removes the risk of false information being inputted, or details being mislaid. It is a robust and secure system that accurately records key information, stores it safely via cloud technology, and makes it accessible to NHS officials immediately if required.
By using technology, room for human error is eradicated and additionally it can form a further tool for the football industry, and other sports, to encourage government reduced capacity crowds that can be managed efficiently. Collectively it can benefit sport, the health authorities, our communities, and help get fans back into stadiums.
The function is available in the TicketCo ‘super admin’ platform and we are advising clubs who use the TicketCo system for ticketing and payments to make use of it this season.
Cashless is King
In addition to our unique traceability function, which we believe can vastly support football clubs in re-opening stadiums to supporters, our technology further supports creating COVID-19 safe environments.
The government now advises all businesses take contactless card payments rather than cash. COVID-19 is accelerating the death of cash in our daily lives and this will result in a steady increase in the number of football clubs move to a cashless stadium model. Cash is no longer King.
Cashless stadiums for all
There is no reason why the introduction of such technology should be exclusive to the big football clubs. If you think about your retail experience you can pay by contactless card in an independent corner shop, just like you can in a major chain store on the high street. Football should be no different.
This summer we converted Clyde FC’s Broadwood Stadium to fully functional cashless technology ahead of its cashless season card launch. It has included the introduction of new Electronic Point of Sale systems (EPOS) in the concourses, hospitality areas and club shop. Additionally, card readers will be used at all turnstiles. The TicketCo cashless technology means supporters will be able to enter the stadium with their smartphone or bank card and complete every purchase once inside via the same means.
This is not something for the future. The technology exists now, and it is easy to use. In the short to medium term it helps manage COVID-19 as it reduces the number of touch points in stadiums. And additional upsides are vast. It improves clubs’ operations and commercial success, marketing, and data capture. Supporters also benefit from a better matchday experience and easier access to tickets.
With stadium capacities expected to be reduced or worse case remain closed this season, live streaming of matches is another modern digital solution that more clubs can embrace to generate revenue and connect with supporters. For football clubs outside the Premier League and EFL and therefore not tied into a league level broadcasting contract, it is an opportunity to create your own channel.
TicketCo TV provides pay-per-view live streaming and video on demand services that is integrated into our payments platform. It means clubs can combine streaming with ticketing and offer matches for live stream to be viewed on all platforms including Apple TV, Android TV, and Amazon Fire TV.
If stadiums remain closed live streaming will become a key issue. And once physical crowds are welcomed back clubs can simply host ‘hybrid events’ by selling tickets to the stadium alongside virtual tickets. Introducing a robust live streaming solution now will be a sound long term investment for football clubs.
The average time it takes to integrate TicketCo’s technology across a stadium and to train staff is two weeks. Clubs of all sizes need to become COVID-19 safe and technology can help. And the good news is it is accessible and affordable to all clubs.
We are proud to be at the forefront of introducing digital solutions to market and are here to help UK football go cashless and manage COVID-19.
There are no barriers to every club in the county goes cashless. The tech is ready, are you?