The UEFA Super Cup is the traditional curtain raiser for the European soccer season, pitting the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League champions against each other.
It’s an ‘icing on the cake’ rather than a serious European honor, but that doesn’t stop the matches from being competitive and this year there was additional intrigue.
The 2018 edition in Tallinn, Estonia saw Atletico Madrid defeat city rivals Real Madrid 4-2. It was a rare success for Atletico in European matches between the two clubs, with Real Madrid emerging as victors in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals as well as in the 2017 semi-finals.
Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid (Wikimedia Commons)
But there was a development off the pitch that could be considered just as significant for sporting organizations – the use of Blockchain powered mobile ticketing for every spectator.
Mobile ticketing might be met with resistance from soccer traditionalists who covet paper tickets and their sentimental value, but many sporting organizations believe mobile ticketing is a more efficient, secure way to provide admission. And Blockchain is a way of ensuring this.
The blockchain is a distributed ledger system famous for powering cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but its proponents believe it can be used in just about every single industry.
It’s essentially a peer-to-peer platform that allows people to communicate and make transactions without the need for an intermediary. These records can’t be changed, so it adds an element of trust and validation to environments without a central authority figure.
UEFA’s system uses Blockchain to guarantee the validity of mobile tickets, which are downloaded onto a user’s mobile device via an iOS or Android application. Entry is gained by presenting the mobile ticket with Bluetooth devices dotted around the stadium.
UEFA (Wikimedia Commons)
The benefits of Blockchain mobile ticketing are numerous. It makes it more difficult for third parties to get their hands on as many tickets as possible with the intent of selling them on at a profit, while it also prevents unauthorized replication and duplication.
Not only does this ensure that genuine supporters are more likely to get tickets, it also eliminates the possibility of being tricked by fakes. It also gives sporting organizations greater control over who gains access to the stadium. This could be useful in enforcing stadium bans for example.
Finally, mobile ticketing is more convenient for fans who can get hold of their tickets in an instant and don’t have to worry about losing a piece of paper, leaving it at home, or having to find a printer. Sure it’s not as romantic, but most season ticket holders already use cards anyway.
UEFA tested the system at the Europa League final in Lyon, France earlier this year. Half of all tickets sold were sent to mobile devices and UEFA had fine-tuned it to the point that it felt confident enough to go all the way for the Super Cup, which is traditionally held at a smaller venue.
The A. Le Coq Stadium in Tallinn has a capacity of just over 12,000, which is perfectly manageable for such a deployment, while Estonia’s reputation as a bastion of e-government services ensures a technologically-literate population.
UEFA says the event was a success and wants to use the system are more events going forward. So, if you go to a Champions League Final or European Championship match – make sure you remember your smartphone.