Harlequins demonstrate the growing use of smartcard technology.

Harlequins Rugby Club’s investment in integrated ticket sales and customer relationship management technology could pave the way for intelligent ticketing for sports events at its ground.

Major football clubs such as Liverpool and Newcastle already have smartcard schemes up and running.

However, Harlequins’ relatively small Twickenham Stoop stadium ­ with a maximum capacity of only 12,500 ­ makes digital ticketing systems a less cost-effective proposition.

In the short-term smart tickets are just too expensive, said Harlequins’ chief executive Mark Evans. ‘The technology is not cheap, and you need to have the volume to spread your overheads across.’

But as similar schemes take off elsewhere, the club will need to be sure it keeps up.

‘As with any sport, a significant proportion of the fanbase will eventually migrate to alternative payment methods, and you need to be in a position to adapt at some stage, whatever size you are,’ said Evans.

Smartcards do offer significant benefits, including customer convenience and powerful data collection tools, said Butler Group analyst Sarah Burnett. Even smaller sporting venues may find that careful cost-benefit analysis shows up in favour of making the investment.

‘Smaller clubs should look at what they spend now and evaluate whether smart cards might offer a cheaper solution in the long term,’ said Burnett.

‘Data collection plays such a large role in service delivery that manual collection will soon be unsustainable.’

Ultimately, sporting bodies such as Harlequins and transport networks such as that provided by the Go-Ahead Group may collaborate to provide a single smart ticket to cover travel and entrance to an event.

In the meantime, Harlequins’ integrated Talent Sport system, developed by Software4Sport and going live this month, will help the club to keep an up-to-date profile of its customer base and enable targeted support and marketing campaigns.

PUBLICATION: Computing
AUTHOR: Neon Kelly
DATED: 23rd August 2007