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London 2012: Wembley forced to go cash-only after till failure

30 July 2012  |  11938 views  |  7 credit card

Visa's bid to make London 2012 the cashless Olympics has hit the buffers, with Wembley stadium forced to become cash-only during yesterday's football matches.

A top-line Olympics sponsor, Visa has been using the Games to promote new technology such as mobile payments while reducing the number of ATMs at venues.

However, during yesterday's football match between Great Britain's men and the United Arab Emirates, fans were forced to use cash at food and drinks kiosks after card terminals failed.

Said one tweeter at the game:

In a statement, Visa says: "We understand that Wembley's systems failed and therefore they were only accepting cash at the food and beverage kiosks.

"This cash only decision was made by Wembley management and not Visa. We are working with the Wembley team to help them fix this as soon as possible."

Comments: (7)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 30 July, 2012, 10:55

The Olympic ticket was for 2 consecutive games - so several hours in the venue.

Quite a walletful of cash was needed to feed and water a family.

Plus massive queues formed, presumably as the tills didn't have enough change.

Some people thought the days of cash were all over, and didn't come prepared for that. Not yet.

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Keith Appleyard
Keith Appleyard - available for hire - Bromley | 30 July, 2012, 12:25

I think the problem is that people have been convinced that Technology is infallible.

To go out for the day to any event without Cards & Cash seems shortsighted.

What will happen when people think they only need to carry a Smartphone with NFC, and then the network goes down?

This is the best thing that could have happened to wake people up.

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Ian Thompson
Ian Thompson - Sopra Banking Software - Singapore | 31 July, 2012, 03:21

Personally, I love Visa's statement that the systems went down but it was Wembley's decision to go cash only.

I thought the decision to go cash only was because the systems went down and they could not take card payments anyway, there wasn't really a decision to make!

I must be naïve but hey, I believe it ... really ...

OK, maybe not!

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 31 July, 2012, 07:26

Ther Visa decision to be exclusive payment card at the olympics is directly behind this card payment failure. It is a major operationnal risk for the Olympics to accept that there is an exclusive payment deal with only one card company and also a major risk to custom build a card payment network accepting only Visa cards and launch at the olympic venues with millions of users with massive "peak-hour" traffic. Any new payment terminal network will, at its best take several months to get up and running smoothly. It is not advisable to launch exclusive terminals with multiple technical Visa application standards, chip + PIN, mag stripe, contactless cards and mobile NFC and on top of everyrthing the disposable prepaid contactless cards sold to people taht normally do not hols a Visa card. Both technology and many users are new to the payments - and therefore the Wembley shut-down was no surprise. Bear in mind that the venues display Visa only ATM:s as well so cash was not an option if you did not carry an ordinary atm capable Visa card!

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 31 July, 2012, 09:33

a few ATMs (fewer than 10?) aren't sufficient contingency for 80000 people (give or take the empty seats) needing cash.

Lesson learnt: a single method/provider of payment at point of sale results in a single point of failure. That may not matter much in a typical POS situation; but when there is a captive market, it should not be permissible for a single commercial provider to hold exclusive rights to family-critical services, such as drinks for the kids - and the visiting guests. Leave it to the national utilities, they have the track record of doing it well - and quietly - over many years - for which there are no gold medals.

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 31 July, 2012, 09:44

A medal opportunity missed by Visa despite 7 years notice to deliver cash free games. Demonstrates once again that using very public events to promote an exclusive product is a high risk commercial strategy. Sounds like a lack of basic common sense and logistical planning by those involved. Is this yet another story of top management not understanding ground realities..?

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 02 August, 2012, 12:05

Most of these Olympic venues have no re-entry policy, so the audience is well and truly captive!  At £5 a sandwich and about the same for a drink, your need about £40 cash to do a single feed of a family and probably do it twice.  At least the water was free, but huge queues for that too. But hey - it was still great to go.

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