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Football club tags fans with RFID tickets

Silicon.com | November 15, 2006
Andy McCue

London-based Premiership football club Fulham has started issuing RFID-enabled smartcard tickets to fans to cut queues at the turnstiles on match days and increase safety around the stadium.

Around 20,000 of the RFID-enabled smartcards have been issued to season-ticket holders and club members. The cards have an arial and a chip, which contains data on matches the cardholder has paid for. Fans can update the cards over the phone or in person at the stadium ticket office.

Fulham FC's head of IT, Matthew McGrory, said there are many benefits to the new RFID ticketing system.

"It is faster. The old system took, at the best of times, 10 to 20 seconds per season-ticket holder on the turnstile. That is now down to four seconds. It is also safer. Last season there were queues all round this stand and now this road is almost totally empty on match days," he said.

Each card has a unique code that can be used to deactivate it if the card is reported lost or stolen. The season ticket details are also stored in a central ticketing system, so the fan's games can simply be loaded onto a new card.

There are 46 card readers installed on the turnstiles at Fulham's Craven Cottage stadium, including one mobile reader that can be wheeled between different gates. But installing the readers wasn't without its problems.

McGrory told silicon.com: "The stand is Grade 1 Heritage listed. We weren't allowed to touch anything here."

That meant channels had to be dug in the concrete floor to lay electric cables, and the blue system boxes for each reader had to be carefully attached to the wall without anything being drilled directly into the brickwork.

Fulham is not the only club using RFID ticketing systems. Others include Coventry City, Manchester City, Reading and Wigan.

McGrory said Fulham will also be trialling the RFID smartcards for e-cash purchases for the shops at the stadium, as well as a possible tie-up with London Underground to enable fans to get cheaper tube tickets on match days, which would also help cut traffic congestion in the residential area around Craven Cottage.

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