Sports clubs scoring goals with technology

Australian and New Zealand rugby league and rugby union clubs are turning to technology to give them a competitive edge against rival teams and forms of entertainment, Hamish Barwick writes

The Wests Tigers are planning to develop stadium-only mobile content for fans.

The Wests Tigers are planning to develop stadium-only mobile content for fans.

Bums on seats

Sometimes attracting fans can be as simple as allowing them to pay off season tickets in instalments via the internet which is something the New Zealand Warriors NRL side implemented in December 2011.

Using a billing system called Debitsuccess, club members can pay for their season tickets or membership in instalments over six months. Previously they were only able to do this in a maximum of three instalments. Integration between the NRL Web portal and Debitsuccess’ paperless direct debit technology means that new members can sign up online, and then nominate the intervals at which they will pay their fees.

NZ Warriors finance and operations manager, Dave Curran, says club membership has increased to 1500 as a result of the payment system --and publicity generated by the team reaching the NRL Grand Final for the second time-- while the average number of tickets purchased per customer has risen from 2.21 tickets to 3.32 tickets.

“We know the best way to grow our support base is to get the fans to see their team play live,” he says. “In efficiently facilitating the ticket buying process, Debitsuccess has basically made it easier for fans to attend local games and connect with the team.”

Curran adds that the system is proving to be far more effective than the in-house system it had before and saved the club hours of work and administration costs.

Aside from using technology to make it easier for fans to buy tickets, the side utilises the NRL CRM database to send information such as game day and season ticket offerings out to members via email.

When the team is named on the Tuesday afternoon before a match, members get this information first as well.

While the NZ Warriors have attracted more fans with ticket payment plans, Curran laments that its home stadium in Auckland, Mount Smart Stadium, doesn’t have the necessary scanners to allow for Near Field Communication (NFC) capable phones to be used as virtual tickets.

“Our scanners aren’t up to date with the latest scanning technology on phones which we hope the stadium will update soon,” he says.

“However, our ticket partner, Ticketet, has recently introduced a scheme where people can print their tickets off at home and scan them at the ground.”

In addition, the stadium has recently installed IP cameras so security can constantly monitor during games what patrons are doing. If fans are drunk or have smuggled alcohol in this means they can be spotted and ejected from the ground quicker, says Curran.

“This means a much better environment for our fans, many of whom are families with young children.” Curran adds that the club doesn’t have an IT staff member, choosing to employ an IT consultant instead. Not only has the club saved overheads costs but Curran reports that using a consultant means it has an IT resource “on tap” when it needs help.

“Our priority is to stay abreast of all technology changes as we don’t want the team or staff members to fall behind,” he says. “We have the latest iPads to keep the staff working at maximum potential.”

Over the page, stadium technology and player performance.

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