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ENGLAND: Southend United Goes High-Tech With SkiData

Southend United has installed a new integrated ticketing, access control and customer relationship management (CRM) system from APT SkiData at its Roots Hall stadium. The Coca-Cola (sponsor) League One club said that the new solution increases the speed with which fans can enter the ground, reduces the possibility of fraud and enhances the quality of reporting to assist with new CRM strategies in a way that many clubs in the Barclays (sponsor) Premier$hite would envy. Season-ticket holders now carry a smart card that stores all of their ticket information and allows them fast access to the ground through new turnstiles that have been installed specifically for the purpose.

Behind the initiative is the club’s deputy chairman Geoffrey King, who first began looking at ways of increasing match attendances three years ago by improving the fans’ experience, even if the performance of the team at that time was disappointing. He quickly realised that one of the club’s most valuable commodities was its data, and that if the data could be collated, verified and manipulated, then fans could be targeted and incentivised to come back to the ground. Concurrently, he looked at further initiatives within the community, focusing on schools and families to encourage them through the gates, and enjoyed quick success.

“Previously we never had an accurate record of who came to the ground or why,” King explained. “There were problems reconciling ticket receipts, people were buying seats at one price and the sitting in more expensive areas where they were not entitled to be, or purchasing children’s tickets as adults and there was no way of checking who they were. We looked at various providers before opting for APT SkiData, integrating its access control technology with a new ticket provider and our existing CRM database to give us a level of control and information that previously wasn’t possible. We can now build a profile of every fan that comes to the ground. We kn! ow what time they arrive, where they sit, which games they come to, how they pay – we can even tell you their shirt sizes! This means we can target them with particular incentives, perhaps encouraging them to come to the ground earlier. And with our season-ticket holders, if we know they are not likely to be coming to a game, we can contact them, confirm whether they are coming or not and sell-on their seat for that match accordingly.”

Some 3,500 cards have been acquired, the first 2,700 going to existing season-ticket holders. As the fan approaches the turnstile, he presents his card to the reader and access is granted. If there is a problem with the card, then a red light alerts a steward to render assistance. Once the card is read, it cannot be presented again for the same match – thus avoiding ‘pass-backs’ – passing the card back to a friend in an attempt to gain access. Matchday tickets are barcoded and presented in much the same way, and hand-held readers are available for visitors to the VIP and corporate hospitality areas. More than 30 three-arm, half-height turnstiles have been installed which, as with all of the APT SkiData technology, can be easily dismantled and re-installed at some time in the future if the prospect of a new stadium for Southend United comes to fruition. They replace some turnstiles that date back to the 1900s and came off Southend’s famous pier!

As well as smartcards, Southend is also looking at club-branded smart watches as an alternative medium for storing ticket information and doubling as a season-ticket. A value-add for the APT SkiData system is that cards are also being issued to stewards such that they can effectively ‘sign-in’ when they arrive for a game which greatly helps from a health & safety perspective (i.e. ensuring the requisite number of stewards are on duty) and also in reconciling pay.

The APT SkiData technology was installed on time and on schedule, with minimal disruption for the club. The first formal launch for the system was ! on Octob er 22, when Southend played against Barnsley.