The Champions League final 2022 will likely be remembered not just for a record 14th win for Real Madrid but also for the shambolic scenes facing fans trying to get into the stadium.

Depending on your point of view, either fans with forged tickets ran amok at the turnstiles and resorted to jumping fences, or legitimate tickets were rejected by turnstiles meaning fans that had paid a fortune for tickets were denied entry.  There were reports that the issues were only caused by paper tickets issued to Liverpool fans.  The Real Madrid supporters mostly deployed digital technology in ticketing and that seemed to work well.

At the time of writing, it is still to early to draw a definitive conclusion. However, if the French Government reports of (in the words of their Interior Minister) “massive fraud on an industrial scale” by fans across paper tickets, it seems likely that the tide has finally turned towards digital ticketing forever.

 

A digital only future?

The sports and entertainment industries would hardly be the first to go down this route, as demonstrated by the array of parking apps I constantly need on my smartphone.  Whether it is RingGo for parking near my house, PayByPhone when shopping or MiPermit when in little market towns in Wiltshire and Dorset (yes, I am that boring), options for digital parking are usually slick, effective and well adopted.

 

Challenges with paperless

That is not to say digital is the perfect solution.  There still needs to be a viable solution for those with little or no access to smartphone technology and apps.  Also digital is unappealing to those that want to keep a physical memento of an event.  Ticket stubs are part of the experience for many people and a no cost memento of an event.

The growth in ticket touting and resale sites – both legitimate and illicit – encouraged many promoters to move away from digital solutions and back to paper tickets, partly because they could be sent out just before the event, making resale less likely.  Other concerns with digital tickets – such as the fear they will be screenshot and shared widely among other fans – have largely been overcome.  I was at the O2 recently for a gig and my ticket refreshed with a new 3D barcode every 60 seconds, rendering the previous ones useless.  A screenshot would not have got me into the gig.

The only real challenge left for digital tickets is providing the bandwidth in venues such as sports stadia and concert venues to ensure everyone can access their tickets in real time.  Hyper-congested areas continue to cause mobile networks issues but hopefully the wider rollout of 5G will even see this issue finally settled.