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Cashing In on Contactless Sporting Events

There are many benefits to adopting a cashless payment system that enables spectators to use RFID cards to pay for food, beverages and other items. Here's what you need to know.
By Steve Beecroft
Jul 27, 2009In recent times, we have seen a surge in e-payments, or what has now been termed cashless payments What is the cause of this gallop toward removing cash from some environments? Well, that is simple—cost savings, revenue generation and improved efficiencies.

The 2010 Football World Cup, in South Africa, and the 2014 basketball World Cup, in Spain, have plans for cashless facilities, and the 2009 German F1 Grand Prix, in Nurnberg, has already implemented a cashless solution. To demonstrate how increasingly important cashless technology has become to sports venues, Sandra Alzetta, Visa Europe's senior VP for consumer market development, said, "The aim is for a cashless Olympic Games in London in 2012."

Many types of organizations have implemented cashless solutions, including local authorities, government, schools and sports arenas. Such solutions typically focus on cards or wristbands containing an RFID tag, or printed with a bar code and issued to event spectators. The spectators can deposit funds into an account linked to the card or wristband, which they can then use to pay for food, beverages, commemorative T-shirts or other items. Organizations that have deployed cashless systems have realized significant benefits, including modest revenue generation, in addition to cost reductions and efficiency gains. In fact, one local authority has seen a 60 percent increase in overall efficiencies by issuing payment cards rather than paper vouchers.

The potential for generating revenue in most sectors is, as previously mentioned, modest. For U.K. football (soccer) clubs and other operators of arenas, stadia and sports events, however, the revenue increase for a scheme that is well planned and implemented can be significant. When that is added to the benefits of holding the deposited funds and having immediate access to the transactional data, the attraction for such venues is very clear.

But is this just hype, or are the financial benefits of cashless stadia truly a reality? They can be the latter, if it is a closed system that operates only within the stadium and club shop, and where the club is the custodian of the cashless scheme and the funds deposited within it. This approach vastly improves a business case based on income, and also offers the club a direct relationship with the users, as well as autonomy over the day-to-day operation of the cashless scheme, including the all-important scheme rules, particularly regarding breakage (dormant accounts with credit balances, fees for lost, stolen or damaged cards, and so forth). How users perceive the cashless scheme will be the critical success factor in terms of customer experience. In the closed scheme operated by the club, the users are truly supporting the club on many fronts—not just from the terraces and bleachers—and with the right scheme rules, the club is directly responsible for the relationship with its users.

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