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Case Study: UEFA Euro 2020 & the role of mobile blockchain ticketing

Not only did this year’s UEFA EURO 2020 mark the first time the tournament took place across several different countries, but it was also the first time a major international tournament used predominantly mobile tickets.

This was made possible by UEFA working with SecuTix Solutions to distribute close to 1 million mobile tickets through its blockchain-technology enabled UEFA EURO 2020 Mobile Tickets app.

11 venues, 10 countries, four time zones

The challenge was a considerable one, before even considering the pandemic. UEFA EURO 2020 took place across 11 venues in 10 countries, in four time zones, with several different languages, legislations, VAT rates, and across seven different access control providers. To meet the challenge, mobile ticketing was always going to play a key role, but with the pandemic the move to mobile ticketing was accelerated.  An agile, digital system was needed to react to the varying local COVID restrictions, venue changes weeks before the tournament, differing stadium capacity levels and the ever-changing COVID travel restrictions.

The results show that fans of every demographic adapted well to the change to mobile ticketing. For the larger matches at Wembley, more than 95% of spectators in the stadium bowl held mobile, instead of paper, tickets. 

More than 860,000 users registered in the mobile app, and 60% of tickets were downloaded to the app within just one hour of distribution. 

The UEFA EURO 2020 app worked by generating a unique, secure encrypted ticket for Android and iOS smartphones that is entirely traceable. This removed the risk of counterfeit tickets while simplifying the process of transferring tickets. Using the app, fans with tickets could securely download, transfer, keep, or assign a guest a ticket, at any point. The app was fully translated into 11 languages and it enabled the ticket buyers to transfer in total 560,000 tickets to their guests. 

Managing flow and enhancing efficiency

The app significantly helped manage the flow of fans into stadiums, helping to manage safety and efficiency, says Philippe Margraff, Head of Revenue Operations at UEFA. “We extended the app for the Euros to include a new timeslot functionality, visible at the point of stadium access. This encouraged the fans not to arrive all at the same time at the stadium, but to stagger their access across 30-minute time slots, within the three hours before kick-off when the gates opened.” This, he says, was principally to try to minimise COVID contact before spectators were seated in the stadium and ensure correct social distancing. 

Separating different strands of ticketing and managing guest lists can be problematic for venues, but the app was extended to handle hospitality tickets, allowing staff at a hospitality welcome desk to register that a hospitality wristband was distributed for premium lounge access.

One of the most exciting things about the mobile ticketing solution, says Caspar Fall, SecuTix Senior Project Manager, “is that we have been able to get a closer look at what’s working in different venues. In Munich, for instance, timeslot compliance seemed particularly high,” says Fall, “and we can see this from mobile ticket activation data that we collect, so we know exactly when each fan arrives at the stadium.”

Autonomous running  

This real-time crowd analysis can prove transformational for venue managers. Since the app reports back when the ticket is activated at the stadium entrance, UEFA was able to know exactly how many fans were entering each entrance of the outer perimeter and even how many tickets each steward at the outer perimeter is activating in real time. 

With 2500 beacons to deployed across 11 venues, UEFA staff supported the local teams to configure and operate the hardware required to activate mobile tickets when fans arrive at the stadiums. In fact, says Fall, “UEFA did a very good job training the venues to operate with beacons to activate tickets and beyond the first few matches, they were able to leave the venues to run the system autonomously, with a hotline to address any matchday issues. The number of calls we had for help was ridiculously small. In most venues it was a completely flawless operation.”

Targeted communications

One of the real strengths of the app is its ability to enable communication with fans. The backend tech allows for targeted push notification campaigns and important safety messages to be sent to fans in the run up to the game and as they arrive at the stadium. For example, UEFA were able to inform fans of the travel restrictions or local COVID regulations. They also sent links to a website publishing FAQs and a link to a ticket transfer screen. 

More than 300 campaigns were sent during the tournament and some days saw more than 100,000 notifications. 

This, of course, comes in useful when creating targeted sales campaigns. During the knock-out stage of the tournament, UEFA used the system to target specific groups after each team qualified for the next match. UEFA was able to target fans who had their “follow my team” tickets cancelled before the tournament and offer them a priority sales phase for knock-out stage matches. It was also able to offer early tickets to those fans who had their tickets cancelled in earlier sales phases due to stadium capacity restrictions. Any remaining tickets could then be sold to the general public. All of this was made possible through SecuTix’s targeted sales capabilities. 

“Sales to fans are generally run in close cooperation with the national football federations, who decide on sales rules to their fans,” Fall explains. “In some cases, further targeting of sales was necessary to comply with travel restrictions, in cooperation with the federations, for example finding Italian fans living in England to sell to, since Italians could not travel to the UK at short notice.” 

Each federation could choose how many tickets each fan could buy and for this tournament a popular model was UEFA generating unique access codes in bulk, sending them to the federations, who then decided which fans to redistribute them to. These access codes were then inputted into a sales portal, which allowed fans to purchase specific matches in line with dedicated fan quotas. All returns or tickets that became available during the tournament were quickly injected into the sales portal and redistributed easily to mobile phones. 

A flexible and agile solution

During challenging times like this, mobile ticketing comes to the fore. It was able to respond quickly and flexibly, deal with both stadium capacity and COVID restriction changes and ensure the fans’ journey was as easy as possible. The technology made a huge difference to the running of the tournament, says Margraff: “With all the data for ticketing and hospitality in one place we not only had an essential real-time view of fan behaviour but we could ensure we delivered an experience that fans will want to repeat.”