How cashless ticketing will reduce COVID-19 risk in stadiums this summer

by | Jun 2, 2021

It’s back! For the first time in months, crowds will return to sports stadia across the UK as COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease.

Safety of supporters will be of the upmost importance to clubs preparing to welcome back fans. Touch points will be reduced and social distancing and masks will remain at this stage. Technology and digital ticketing will play an important role in the safe return of fans. One club embracing it is Bedford Blues.

The Greene King IPA Championship club welcomed supporters to its Goldington Road home on Saturday, May 29, as Ampthill visited for the final game of the season. Chief Operating Officer Gareth Alred talks about how cashless ticketing and other measures form a key part of the club’s strategy to welcome back fans.

Minimising touch points

Reducing contact between all people on-site during a matchday is essential in fulfilling a safe and secure event as we ease out of lockdown. Digital ticketing helps keep supporters safe, ticket scanners and club stewards safe.

“The need for electronic and non-touch point ticketing is why we partnered with TicketCo initially,” said Gareth. “Being with TicketCo means we are one step ahead of the game concerning the pandemic and keeping supporters safe.

“Tickets are scanned on phones, there is no requirement for people to share paper or touch items they don’t own themselves. As well as minimal risk, it also allows for greater efficiency in getting supporters through the gates. No one has to visit the site or ticket office before the game, it’s all done electronically which is considerably more efficient and safer too.”

Smooth experience

Queuing outside a cramped ticket office waiting needlessly to gain access to your seat is a thing of the past.

Digital ticketing not only saves time, but it puts an end to unnecessary contact too. TicketCo Media Service’s cloud-based ticketing platform allows fans to buy tickets online which sends a QR code to their smartphone. The code is then scanned at the turnstiles by stewards.

This process applied to Blues’ fans attending their first game in over a year.

Gareth said: “We had to bring in additional stewards for Ampthill’s visit, so we comply with every COVID-19 regulation and provide the smoothest fan experience possible. We’re proud to host a fantastic family atmosphere at our club – additional stewards made our supporters feel comfortable in the environment.”

Although the platform significantly increases the number of pre-purchased tickets to matches, there is still of course a demand to pay on arrival in some cases. Our longstanding partnership with Zettle by PayPal fully integrates with the platform and takes contactless payments onsite via Apple pay, Apple Wallet or debit/credit card further reducing the need for contact on site.

Track and trace

A natural by-product of using TicketCo Media Services as your event payment platform is it acts as a track and trace system at no effort to your club.

In the instance of a ticketholder developing COVID-19 symptoms in the days after a game, the club will be able to identify which supporters were within proximity of the symptomatic fan. This bonus feature can help minimise the risk of the virus spreading.

Gareth added: “We’ve worked extremely hard to minimise the risk of COVID-19 entering our site on matchday.

“But the facts are that one in three people who test positive do so without displaying symptoms. Our ability to track and trace customers through the TicketCo database eases the strain on our concerns. It allows us to concentrate on providing supporters with the best possible matchday experience.”

Additional measures

Of course, digital ticketing represents a small part of the operation Bedford Blues put in place ahead of Ampthill’s visit.

The stadium was split into three zones meaning players and club staff were kept safely distanced from home fans. One-way systems, signage plus verbal communication and dialogue from stewards will keep fans safe.

Masks must be always worn and alcohol will only be served in hospitality and in a pop-up 30x30ft open marquee.

Gareth said: “It is challenging to police, but it’s a challenge financially too. We cannot accommodate pitch side drinking and there are strict rules concerning hospitality numbers and how many people can sit at each table. Our normal capacity is 5,000 but we’ll welcome 1,500 to our final game. All attendees will be a mix of sponsors, season ticket holders and those who have streamed all of our games this season via TicketCo Media Services.”

Hybrid matches

With no fans able to attend fixtures this season until now, the club has used TicketCo Media Services fully integrated ticketing and live streaming service to broadcast fixtures globally.

Typically, 1,000 streaming passes have been sold for each fixture. With average attendances reaching 2,500 pre-COVID, Gareth said the club is considering adopting a hybrid model for future home games to increase accessibility.

“We’ve enjoyed listening to all the positive feedback from our stream,” said Gareth. “We have used four cameras to increase our stream’s production value and fans have loved it. Fans’ streaming journey from ticket buying to logging on and actually watching the match has been great.

“Technically gifted fans have even engaged on social media, posting photos of them watching matches on their TV and laptops while on Zoom calls with friends. It’s been great to see live streaming facilitate that connectivity and engagement between supporters which makes the Blues family so special.”

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Written by Shaun Reynolds

Communications advisor and expert storyteller with Fortitude Communications. A former news reporter and sports editor of five years across several UK regional titles. Experienced in photography and social media management with a passion for the outdoors.

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