The ‘Blues’ get that contactless feeling. Welcome to Manchester.

The City of Manchester Stadium, the main venue...

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The UK’s north-western city of  Manchester has played a leading role in the music and sports scenes, but could its dominance now be spreading to the contactless sector?

Not only has it played host to major sports events such as the 2002 Commonwealth Games, it’s also the home of some of the UK’s top Olympic cyclists and the venue for two major Premiership soccer  clubs. Its sporting credentials are matched by its pre-eminance as the birthplace of major international bands such as The Smiths, Oasis, Buzzcocks and Inspiral Carpets.

Manchester’s interest in contactless technology dates back almost a decade. In 2002, Fortress GB rolled out PicoPass contactless smart cards and multi-standard contactless reader interfaces for its Smart Football Club solution implemented at Maine Road Stadium, then home to one of the city’s big two soccer clubs, Manchester City.

‘The Blues’ have now moved to the city of Manchester Stadium – originally built for the Commonwealth Games – but the club’s interest in contactless is still strong. It’s an interest that makes a lot of sense commercially: the stadium environment gives organizations a perfect opportunity to test users’ responses to the technology for applications such as payment, access control, ticketing and loyalty.

In August 2006, the stadium rolled out a ticketing scheme in conjunction with telecoms operator Orange UK. An estimated 20 season ticket holders were given Nokia 3220 cell phone handsets, enabling them to enter the stadium with a tap on contactless readers at the gate. And in March 2008, some 3,500 season ticket holders had their tickets replaced with reloadable pre-paid MasterCard PayPass cards in a trial which also included MBNA and Altair Financial Services International. The rollout aimed to reduce queuing  and participating fans could also use the cards to pay for purchases of less than £10 at bars and stands in one section of the stadium. Supporters could top up their cards via the Manchester City website, over the phone or at Payzone payment points at retailers nationwide.

Manchester’s transport sector is also getting in on the contactless act. In 2009, the first multi-purse smart card with pay-as-you-go travel purse was launched in nearby Bolton as a result of a partnership between the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive, Bolton Council, Arriva buses, ticketing systems provider Parkeon, Applied Card Technologies and sQuid, the eMoney payments network.

Passengers can now use the contactless ITSO card to pay for travel on more than 30 Arriva bus routes in Bolton as well as to access council services and shop at participating local stores. Children can also sample the contactless experience, by using their council-issued BSmart card to pay for their bus journey to and from school, entry to leisure centres and snacks. Parents can top up their children’s cards online and view their offsprings’ transactions.

Contactless is now firmly on the agenda in Manchester, which was also among the handful of UK cities that the previous Labour government earmarked for funding to introduce NFC-compatible transport ticketing by 2015.

Click here for the league table on Manchester


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