Manchester City FC kicks off mobile-ticket trial

The club has teamed up with Orange to launch the scheme, which will allow fans to enter the stadium using their mobiles in place of a ticket

Manchester City Football Club has launched a trial with Orange to allow fans to use their mobiles to enter the stadium instead of producing a ticket, following a similar trial with wave-and-pay smartcards.

According to the club's head of retail, Duncan Martin, the aim is to use the technology to offer loyal fans freebies and discounts at the stadium as well.

The trial was launched on the same day a European Telecommunications Standards Institute standard for Near Field Communication (NFC) applications to reside on mobile phone SIM cards was ratified, according to an Orange spokesman.

This is an essential milestone in the use of mobile phones as payment devices, as it paves the way for making mobile-phone contactless payments device-independent.

The stadium, originally built to host Commonwealth Games events, was fully fitted for RFID-tag reading four years ago at the cost of £250,000, so the infrastructure for NFC is already in place.

Martin said the cost for a fully rolled-out mobile NFC scheme would not go above six figures, adding: "It would be within our day-to-day business model."

Only 20 handsets have been distributed to season ticket fans, so no top-ups or account management is involved. Martin hopes to extend the trial to registered, non-season-ticket-holding fan-club members.

He expects to be able to offer a full rollout of services — such as a free programme or a discount on drinks if fans arrive at the stadium early — by 2009.

Martin said: "The main driver for the project is to get better loyalty and match attendance. We also hope the scheme will attract high-calibre sponsors who can make offers to fans through the device."