In the space of just four days, SecuTix Solutions and UEFA successfully delivered both the UEFA Europa League Final in Gdańsk and the UEFA Champions League Final in Porto, the latter being the highest attended European football match since the outbreak of the pandemic.
This was no mean feat, with the SecuTix and UEFA teams handling local social distancing restrictions, a last minute venue change plus the roll out of a mobile ticketing app.
Caspar Fall, SecuTix Senior Project Manager, and Philippe Margraff, Head of Revenue Operations at UEFA, talk through the challenges faced and how the mobile ticketing system responded quickly in order to welcome fans safely into the stadiums...
Handling venue change at short notice
The UEFA Champions League Final was initially planned to take place in Istanbul. But when two English teams qualified for the final, Manchester City and Chelsea, their fans could not easily travel to Turkey to see the match due to travel restrictions. Accordingly, UEFA switched the final to Porto at short notice on 13 May, just over two weeks before the match.
Commenting on the last minute switch in country and venue, Fall said: “This is the first time we have switched venues at such short notice. UEFA used our platform to recreate a new match in a new venue. Thankfully, UEFA had already organised matches in Porto during the UEFA Nations League Finals in 2019, so the seating map was already available, and the stadium access control system was already integrated.”
This was positive news as the team needed to focus on their biggest challenge: selling tickets for the new venue with just over a fortnight to go.
New system for general public tickets
“For the general public, which was mainly local Portuguese spectators, we organised a ‘last minute sale’, running on a first-come first-served basis,” said Fall. “This was a first for UEFA, which has always preferred to run lotteries to cope with the high demand for tickets. But in this case, there was no time to run a lottery and very quickly 1,700 tickets were bought by members of the general public.”
All general public tickets were sold exclusively via UEFA.com and distributed on the mobile ticketing platform, less than a week before the match.
Blockchain mobile ticketing app
Although the UEFA Europa League Final has used blockchain mobile ticketing before, this was the first time that digital tickets had been used in the UEFA Champions League Final. The system uses blockchain-based technology to create secure mobile tickets for Android and iOS smartphones. It works by generating a unique, encrypted ticket that is entirely traceable, removing the risk of counterfeit tickets while simplifying the process of transferring or returning tickets. Using the app, fans who have tickets can securely download, transfer, keep, or assign a guest a ticket, at any point.
“A huge amount of preparation work went into getting the mobile ticketing app for each event ready, with UEFA running many tests on multiple mobile devices and operating systems, high-load testing, and access control tests of mobile tickets to ensure everything ran smoothly,” said Fall.
With the switch in venue from Istanbul to Porto, the UEFA Champions League Final created the additional challenge of quickly readying the app for Porto instead of Istanbul, rebranding it for the new venue and having it downloadable on the stores in good time.
The platform worked well with 63 per cent of UEFA Europa League Final tickets, that’s 5,700, delivered using the app. For the UEFA Champions League Final, it was 28 per cent, or 4,500 tickets.
Each of the finalist clubs had an allocation of 6,000 tickets reserved for their supporters and sales for those were conducted by the clubs directly.
Responding to local health restrictions
Social distancing rules in each host country were different. The authorities in Poland allowed the stadium to hold a quarter of its full capacity (9,500 tickets) whereas Porto’s Estádio do Dragão permitted 33 per cent of seats or up to 16,500 tickets to be sold.
In order to manage social distancing seating, UEFA blocked off three quarters of seats in Gdańsk and two thirds of seats in Porto. They then kept individually-distanced seats in a checker-board pattern. This allowed them to know up-front the exact capacity for each stadium and it worked better than seating groups side-by-side as the sales came in.
Commenting on the two finals, Philippe Margraff, Head of Revenue Operations at UEFA, said: “Both matches went extremely well, with spectators entering stadia easily using their mobile tickets. The Finals proved to us the effectiveness of blockchain mobile ticketing, which we will deploy more broadly at the Men’s Euros later this month.”