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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
Data. Another potential pitfall involves data. What will be captured, and why? What will be done with it once it is captured? What information will reside on the card, system and account? Moreover, what data does the club currently have that will enable customer accounts to be set up—and is this information clean? No matter how hard any organization may try, a percentage of the existing data will be inaccurate. The important thing is to be prepared for that contingency, and to have a good plan to avoid bad publicity, especially with regard to the deceased and those under the age of consent. No club intentionally sends an offer to someone who has been dead for some time, or an alcoholic beverage promotion to a 14-year-old—but it does happen.

Legal and Regulatory. Most important of all the potential banana skins is legislation and industry standards and regulations. In the United Kingdom, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) should be consulted for advice on any cashless solution. The FSA will almost certainly want to review the monitoring systems in place for schemes under the Small e-Money Issuer Certificate (SeMIC) rules, and this can take up to six months to achieve certificated status. The FSA's legal language is often confusing, so consider enlisting the help of an experienced consultant with a sound understanding of the FSA regulations and a good relationship with the agency. This will help avoid delay and expense during the application process, and will prevent the risk of the scheme application failing—or, worse, allow a situation to arise that could cause the club to be liable for hefty financial penalties. Be mindful also of upcoming regulations and legal changes, such as the Payment Service Regulations of 2009 and the new e-Money Directive, slated for 2011.

In modern-day Europe, prepaid debit cashless payment is the fastest-growing payment method, and the chart below demonstrates this.

It is important to understand that the general public is already using cashless prepaid cards as a payment method with other service providers. Mobile phone top-ups, smart utility meters, parking, vending and public transport are just a few examples.

Thus, the concept of prepaid payment is not a new one for football fans. The financial benefits to the club, as well as the improvement in the customer experience, can be very significant, not to mention the power that having the transaction data can give a club. The benefits and advantages of a carefully planned and implemented cashless solution in a football club are clear to see, and in most cases, the implementation costs could be recouped inside one or two seasons. The longer it takes to make the decision, the longer it will take to realize those benefits and advantages.

Steve Beecroft is a smart technologies consultant with Smart Stadia, a division of Consulting Smart Ltd. Beecroft founded Consulting Smart in September 2006 to meet the needs of clients within local authorities and financial services sectors. Since its launch, Consulting Smart has expanded into sports venues with Smart Stadia, and it is already working with several English Football League clubs, offering advice from concept and feasibility through to design planning, building, implementation and benefits realization.

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