Manchester City Football Club is set to begin trialling a mobile phone service that will allow fans to uses their phones to enter through the turnstiles for home games.
The trial of the mobile contactless service, from Orange, might also be extended to enabling fans to buy food and other goods at half time, as well as making it easy to offer loyalty discounts to regular match-goers.
The technology requires mobile handsets to have near-field communications capability, which is built into the SIM card. For the purposes of the trial, from early next year NFC-equipped mobile handsets will be supplied to selected Man City season ticket holders in place of the contactless cards they can currently use inside the stadum.
Users will be able to swipe their mobile phone at dedicated terminals or readers to make payments, in the same way that contactless cards are already being used for payments and in other contexts, like travel.
The initiative at Man City follows successful French trials already carried out across a number of industries in Nice, Paris, and Caen, ahead of a planned major commercial mobile contactless roll-out in Bordeaux in 2008 covering ticketing for trains and buses, mobile payments, retail loyalty programmes and information services through interactive advertising.
“As the first English football club to introduce contactless-based ticketing four years ago, we’re pleased to be working with Orange in driving this next technology breakthrough,” explains Duncan Martin, head of retail at Manchester City. “Mobile contactless services will offer many advantages to our fans, including loyalty schemes and discount vouchers.”
Duncan said NFC technology would also allow the club to build closer links with fans by offering them more than just football.
"By linking this technology to our customer database, we will use this trial data to analyse customer demand, create more targeted campaigns for our most loyal fans and tackle wider issues such as ticket touting and crowd security. The net result will be a much richer matchday experience.”
Orange will use the Manchester City trial to gather customer feedback and analyse user behaviour. Combined with feedback from the earlier trials in France, this information is being touted as crucial in helping to enable a mass roll-out of mobile contactless services.
IDC's wireless and mobile research director Lars Vestergaard said IDC believed that mobile contactless services based on NFC technology held "enormous potential".
He said the promise was "not just bound to mobile payments but to a wide range of applications and services capable of facilitating everyday interactions and transactions with organisations and other people."