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Stadium technology pioneers: Why Birmingham City FC is going cashless

It’s no secret that stadia across the globe are on the hunt for new technology to improve fan experience. From super-connected 5G stadia to IoT integrations, sporting event organisers are looking for ways to pull people away from their TVs and through their gates.

In a day and age where fans have unprecedented access to their favourite teams (literally at their fingertips), stadia need to be enticing, slick and desirable. Long queues, cumbersome crowds and in-stadium technology failures are the enemies of organisations trying to convince fans that watching a match in-person trumps the massive HD screens and comfy couches in their homes.

In their drive to be at the forefront of stadium technology and fan experience, Birmingham City Football Club partnered with Tappit this season to introduce Blues Fastpay, a cashless system that allows fans to load funds onto an RFID card. The system results in faster transaction times and eliminates the need for fans to carry cash. The move to a cashless system makes sense for the Club – in the United Kingdom, only 34 per cent of payments are made using cash, and that number is expected to continue to decline. And the trend toward cashless isn’t unique to the U.K.: globally, non-cash transactions are expected to accelerate at a compound annual growth rate of 12.7 per cent.

BCFC Head of Commercial Ian Dutton explains the Club’s decision to go cashless and shares how it’s made an impact for the Blues so far.

What sparked your interest in going cashless?

Ian Dutton: As a Club, we knew that we needed to sort out our queueing issues. Every game, it was a concern – people were missing parts of the match while waiting in long queues, and the Club was losing money because fans were foregoing concessions as a result. We weren’t delivering the maximum-quality experience to Blues fans.

We also wanted to get more insight into our fans’ consumer behaviour on match day. We were able to get some information from our existing payment system, but we wanted to know how purchasing behaviour changed based on the team’s performance, time of year, and more. It was crucial for us to understand the consumer experience better in the stadium, and Blues Fastpay allows us to do that.

What benefits have you seen as a result of implementing Blues Fastpay?

ID: The key benefit is the insights we get from the system. We can see which kiosks are the busiest and make sure we’re staffing them appropriately. We’re able to identify fans that are very valuable to the Club, and we can use transaction reporting to improve our food & beverage system as a whole.

Has going cashless improved your home matches?

ID: Yes! Going cashless has the potential to fully transform the matchday experiences at St. Andrew’s. As more and more fans start using the system, we’re going to see this trend continue.

What advice do you have for other stadia considering going cashless?

ID: If it’s something on the agenda for your stadium, and it should be, it’s absolutely worth looking into. I’d recommend that before you start, make sure you have a full understanding of your Club’s infrastructure so you can take advantage of it during the implementation process.

It’s absolutely worth doing – going cashless can absolutely improve sporting organisations.

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