Wearable Technology: What UEFA Can Learn From LaLiga

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Wearable contactless payment tech and secure ID verification has helped deliver many positive changes across stadium management in Spain’s LaLiga recently – a stark contrast to the chaotic scenes witnessed at the Champions League Final between Liverpool and Real Madrid earlier this year. Here, Terrie Smith, Co-Founder and Global Ambassador of wearable tech pioneer, DIGISEQ, discusses how the technology is improving operational efficiencies in mass spectator sport.

Despite what feels like an infinite number of TV channels and satellite packages streaming live sport directly into our homes, few would argue that, when it comes to experiencing milestone moments, nothing comes close to catching it in person.

While the perks of soaking up the atmosphere in the flesh undoubtedly add to the overall spectator experience, there are drawbacks that are putting off even the most diehard of fans and spectators.

The chaotic scenes outside the Stade de France at the Champions League Final in May remind us why safe and speedy venue access remains a necessity. Difficulties in managing gathering crowds outside the stadium led to huge queues at entry points. Thousands of fans with genuine tickets were denied access while others without tried to gain entry. Many pointed to police mismanagement of the crowds, amplified by large-scale ticket fraud, with some reports stating that seven out of ten tickets checked at the first venue perimeter were counterfeit.

Incidents such as this illustrate the importance of exploring every available precaution and technology to ensure the safety and protection of fans. Yet even after ticketholders have been verified and admitted, other issues come into play that not only dampen the experience of the paying spectator, but also cause some of the biggest operational headaches for sports and entertainment venues today.

How Technology Scores Big In Venue Access

Enabling payment applications, access control and brand consumer engagement, more than 41 billion devices are expected to be connected to the IoT by 2027, with use cases for wearable tech in sports clubs and venues is set to be a huge part of this growth.

By allowing consumers to link their payment cards to wearable items – which can be instantly and remotely configured over-the-air with their ID and ticket data – pioneering mobile personalisation technology is transforming stadium operational management. Taking just a fraction of the time it would to manually verify ticketholders, wearable objects are scanned digitally on entry to grant venue access.

Offering contactless payment and digital ID verification through a convenient item that goes wherever the user goes, wearable tech is dramatically speeding up entry and transaction times, via encrypted and secured tokenisation.

Eliminating the need to carry cash or reach for bank cards or mobile phones, fans can also use their wearable item to make instant contactless payments, vastly reducing queuing times inside the venue. Moreover, wearable items are far less likely to be lost or misplaced in comparison to credit cards or mobile devices, which can easily slip out of pockets or bags.

Unlocking Unprecedented Growth Opportunities

As part of a series of digital projects in partnership with LaLiga, the Spanish football league, Real Betis has adopted wearable tech to enable paperless ticket entry, allowing season ticket holders to access the stadium by simply scanning a branded key fob that also doubles a contactless payment device, both inside or outside the venue.

Forming part of the club’s digital transformation, Real Betis has enjoyed a 50% rise in average stadium attendance, which currently sits at 48,000 – the fourth-highest in Spain. This is a prime example of how wearable tech is creating infinite opportunities for the future of stadium access, payment options, and drawing fans closer while also boosting revenues.

Unlike active wearable tech such as smartwatches with limited battery lives, tokenised wearable tech allows virtually any form factor – like a ring, key tag, or even a bracelet charm – to be inserted with a chip and turned into a contactless payment or digital ID token.

What’s more, wearable items can be branded with club crests and visual identities, creating a memorable impression and a talking point for fans.

The Real Betis fob has gained significant traction in the first wave release, and from August 2022 will be offered as an additional add-on to season ticket holders when renewing their subscription for the 2022-23 season.

Looking ahead, plans are already in place to evolve the use of this world-first wearable technology, by enabling supporters to use their fob at away matches, whilst allowing visiting fans to access the stadium in the same way, as if they had a season ticket for a visiting team.

This technology solves a specific pain point for fans who either carry their traditional physical season tickets or use a cumbersome mobile phone scanning solution which slowed access at the turnstiles, especially for families and larger groups. The fob allows fans to leave their wallets and cash at home and tap safely and quickly into the stadium. If lost, the fob can easily and swiftly be disabled, and a new one purchased.

Superior Experiences And Deeper Connections

Not only is wearable tech helping forward-thinking venues such as the Estadio Benita Villamarín achieve remarkable uplifts in attendance, venue access and transactions speeds, thanks to real-time tracking data, clubs can access an overview of user activity, generating powerful marketing insights too.

This is a huge bonus afforded by the tech is that wearable items can be provisioned over-the-air with special promotional offers that can be used in real time. For instance, a fan watching a live game at a venue can be instantly alerted through their device of any rewards that can be redeemed while they’re at the game – and even vote for man-of-the-match through their device while the game is on.

Wearable tech also allows clubs and item issuers to fulfil environmental efforts by negating the need for plastic cards or paper tickets, with all data sent digitally to the user’s item.

Delivering Huge Business Benefits

Driven by the rapidly growing Internet of Things, the wearable payment devices market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 29% between 2022-2032, with an estimated market valuation of US$13.43 billion in 2022 alone.

Yet, largely due to misconceptions of high costs and complexities, many sport institutions have, until now, refrained from offering wearable tech.

Previously, chip-enabled items, such as a plastic card or other form factors requiring personalisation or provisioning with user data, would undergo the costly, time-consuming process of being personalised by the manufacturer before being delivered to the business or club and finally being sent onto the user.

However, new innovations in wearable technologies means providers can handle the personalisation of the NFC chip in the wearable item from end to end, without the manufacturer or sports club having to lift a finger. This not only saves time and money for the brand, but gets items into the hands of fans much faster.

For sports venues looking to streamline costs and incentivise more fan interactions and transactions, the emergence of cutting-edge wearables deliver huge business benefits.

The opportunities created by wearable tech to forge even deeper, real-time interactive bonds between fans and their clubs will transform live game attendance, and ultimately, help boost performance both on and off the pitch.