Scottish Premiership football club Hibernian believes its move to a cashless stadium model during COVID-19 will allow it to get “ahead of the game” as sport seeks to make its return from the global pandemic.

The Edinburgh-based club last week signed a four-year contract with merchant service provider Sporting Pay for its Easter Road Stadium. The deal will include the introduction of a new Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system for Easter Road’s new-look kiosks and hospitality offerings, with the inner bowl to become a cashless stadium.

When questioned over how the timing of the deal with Sporting Pay ties in with the future operations of stadia when football resumes, Hibernian’s head of marketing and brand partnerships, Greg McEwan, told TheStadiumBusiness.com: “We have taken our kiosks in-house so our operations team were looking at the various options available to us and the various levels.

“The aspiration was to cover every single kiosk with the chosen EPOS system but cost would be the driver of that. COVID-19 then hit and as we worked through the options it was clear that this was the time for us to remove cash from the stadium and pick a partner who could help us become cashless. Sporting Pay were the stand out in that area for us.

“It allows us to get ahead of the game as it is how all sports will end up in the coming years. It has been headed that way for some time but with COVID-19 it will now pick up pace.”

Hibernian sees multiple benefits from the move to a cashless model, specifically for how stadia will need to adapt to a post-COVID world. McEwan said: “It will change the matchday experience as it will speed up service for a start, no need to look out spare change or wait on someone getting change from a till point.

“Certain generations don’t carry a lot of cash on them and were left disappointed when finding there was no option for card payment. This won’t happen anymore as every kiosk and hospitality lounge will be fitted with the system. Hygiene benefits are clear for fans as well.”

With the Scottish Premiership just one of a host of top-tier football leagues currently suspended, clubs are now faced with meeting the challenge of how to accommodate fans back in their stadia. McEwan said: “The biggest challenge is providing the safest route in/out of the stadium and having the cleanest possible environment for fans to enjoy the matches.

“The operations team are looking at a long list of things at the moment from entrance points, the safest ways to move in/around the concourses and enjoying a match as safely as possible. This may include providing gloves, masks, sanitisers etc.”

Earlier this year, Hibernian unveiled a pledge to build on its reputation as the ‘Greenest Club in Scotland’. All of the club’s energy is taken from renewable sources, while it is currently investigating biomass and ground source heat pump options at Hibernian Training Centre (HTC) and the potential for a solar PV farm on the campus.

By the end of 2020, Hibernian has pledged that almost 100% of all matchday waste will be recycled. Vegan options are currently available in stadium kiosks and the club is seeking to remove all single use plastics across catering.

Hibernian has said electrifying the current club fleet to electric vehicles will save around 3% of its current CO2 output. It is aligned to the integrated travel plan launched by Edinburgh City Council and aims to reduce the current 48% of attendees who travel by car to matches through agreements with travel partners. Electric charging points are to be installed around Easter Road and the HTC.

The Sporting Pay deal is intended to tie into this mantra, as McEwan explains: “Reviewing the catering offering in stadium is a big part of the greenest club. The EPOS system will allow us to track stock more closely and reduce any wastage in stadium.

“The pledge has developed well since we launched, we have had a number of existing partners approach us to see what they can do to help, as well as potential partners approach us to see how they can partner with us.

“We are also looking at what we can do in-stadium through lights, screens, rainwater and much more to improve our standing as The Greenest Club. It’s been really encouraging chatting to likeminded businesses.”

Images: Hibernian