An innovative new development will see referees’ red and yellow cards installed with contactless payment technology – allowing players to pay their fines on the pitch – thanks to Mastercard.
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The move comes as local football associations revealed there is a £10m blackhole in Sunday League fine collection, with several teams simply dodging payments, often by claiming to have folded, or using made up names to avoid detection.
The revolutionary move will see player shirts fitted with contactless payment technology, linked to their club’s bank account. Meanwhile, referees’ red and yellow cards will be fitted with a chip that allows it to receive a payment when tapped on a player’s shirt.
If a card is raised during a game, and the connected account has insufficient funds, the fines will automatically double for the following week and if the account remains in arrears for over two weeks the team will be suspended from the league to prevent further avoidance of fines.
Early trials have received widespread support from Sunday League administrators. Rolf Lapios who oversees numerous games at Hackney Marshes in London said: “Initial feedback from the referee community has been very positive. Some even suggested that the immediacy of the fines may act as a stronger deterrent against foul play.
"So far the only issue we’ve had is football players trying to escape punishment by running out of the referee’s contactless range. This is clearly a fruitless and childish response, but one we should be able to iron out in testing.”
Flora O’Pil, Digital Payments Manager at Mastercard said: “Our goal is making payments easier and faster for everyone, and that includes referees and footballers. If all goes well with the trials we hope to see the technology rolled out across Europe in the coming seasons. From then onwards, there will also be no more need for referees to write down the name or shirt number of the offending player. The word ‘booking’ will soon seem obsolete.”