UK stadiums that went cashless in 2020

Here’s the round up of UK stadiums who’ve adopted cashless payment systems in 2020.

The move to cashless sports stadiums started a number of years ago of course. Back in 2017, we started to see venues begin the transition to cashless payments and in line with consumer preferences around the world, this trend has only accelerated.

In 2019, when Tottenham Hotspur opened its brand new £1billion stadium, they also took the opportunity to move to 100% contactless payment methods. Ahead of the 2019-2020 season, a number of other football clubs including Bristol City’s Ashton Gate, Brighton & Hove Albion’s Amex Stadium, Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane, Liverpool’s Anfield and Leicester City’s King Power Stadium made announcements that they were taking their stadiums cashless. Indeed, Tappit has been proud to have worked with Birmingham City Football Club for several seasons, delivering Blues FastPay.

In 2020, the global pandemic has seen further acceleration in the adoption of cashless payments across a multitude of industries. The shifts in consumer behaviour – the move to online shopping, the reduction in ATM usage over fears of contracting COVID and the increase in contactless payment limits have all fuelled the increased demand and ubiquity of contactless payments. 

So who’s made the move in 2020?

Cardiff’s Principality Stadium

The Principality Stadium and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) announced at the end of January that they were making a significant move to becoming a cashless facility ahead of the first Six Nations game on 1st Feb.  Since then, only three of it’s sixty five food and beverage stalls have accepted cash payments for alcohol and just five food stalls have taken cash. 

Stadium bosses said the move to cashless payments had come about in response to changing consumer behaviour. 85% of transactions made at the stadium towards the end of 2019 were by debit or credit card.

“We have never felt the need to enforce cashless at Principality Stadium preferring to be led by our consumers.  Once they felt comfortable with a variety of payment methods and it’s clear that the number of card payments has increased, we have converted more units.

said Tracey Maxwell, General Manager, Principality Stadium Experience.

Visitors to Principality stadium can now pay via debit card, credit card, Applepay and Android Pay.

Stamford Bridge, Chelsea Football Club

One month later, in March 2020, Chelsea announced that they were taking a phased approach to going cashless. Whilst some areas of the stadium were already cashless prior to the announcement – hospitality areas, non-match day events and some restaurants for example – this move saw the addition of  car park machines. The cashless rollout was planned to continue until October by which point the stadium was fully cashless.

Payments at the stadium now have to be made by debit card, credit card, Applepay or Android Pay.

The Emirates Stadium, Arsenal

Arsenal announced back in January it’s intention to go cashless on 1st March. Arsenal also took a phased approach to this move. Match days were already cashless, the next phase applied to non-match days too. Arsenal said the move to cashless was all about improving the matchday experience and overall efficiency. The stadium now only accepts card payments.

“Ninety-three percent of our stadium transactions are currently made via card payment,” said Tom McCann, Arsenal’s venue director. “By moving to a fully cashless operation, our fans can expect to experience increased speed and shorter queue times at our bars and kiosks.”

London Stadium

Wrapping up the year, London Stadium, home to West Ham, UK Athletics and the venue to a number of sporting and live music events throughout the year went fully cashless in December. Payment methods can be made via contactless cards, wearables, digital wallets and QR codes.

Graham Gilmore, CEO, London Stadium, said:

“The event industry has to be proactive in responding to the situation we find ourselves in, to create a safe and convenient environment for people to return to our venues.”

Soon after this announcement, London Stadium confirmed they’d switched to the 5G network to increase speed and reliability to it’s venue.  

Whilst we’re seeing an increasing number of stadiums going cashless, are they seizing the opportunity to get as close to their fans as possible? The global pandemic and subsequent closing of stadiums has highlighted a key issue for sports teams around the globe – they are not as close to their fans as they’d like to be. 

Away from game day, they don’t know who their fans are, what they like to spend their money on or how loyal they are to the club. The expectation that you have a fan for life is a huge assumption to make, particularly as all the evidence suggests that Generation Z display less loyalty and have more entertainment options which compete for attention.

Choosing the right cashless payment solution is just as important as making the move in the first place. The only way to get close to your fans, to really understand them is to receive the quantitative data on their buying behaviour. Certain cashless payment methods – white label mobile payments or cashless RFID solutions are ‘closed loop’ so you glean all the transaction data. If you already have a vibrant app, a white label digital wallet solution may be the way to go. Alternatively why not incorporate a cashless RFID into your existing season ticket and choose to evolve to mobile payments over time as mobile adoption rates increase further? There’s a number of routes to market that you could take, ideally work with a partner who can offer them all.

So what will 2021 bring?

No one could have foresaw the events of 2020, however here’s some of our predictions for the coming year:

1: More stadiums will go cashless

Unsurprisingly we expect more stadiums to go cashless. Whilst at the start of 2020, the motivations were around reducing queues to improve the fan experience, the themes are now around improved hygiene, enabling social distancing through reduced queue times and providing a safer experience for staff and fans alike.

2: Growth in closed loop cashless systems

We also predict that stadiums will go further as they recognise the benefits of providing their own contactless solution rather than that of a third party. And as more and more stadiums move to being multi-use all-year-round venues, the need for the data on venue attendees has never been more relevant or beneficial.

3: Stadiums will change their implementation strategies from a phased rollout to a switchover

A trend we have certainly seen this year and one which we expect to gain traction is that stadiums will move to fully cashless payments swiftly, rather than taking a phased approach to the rollout. Those stadiums that were already in transition to go fully cashless are likely to conclude whilst stadiums are closed and will be fully cashless once they reopen in 2021.

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