What can Australian sporting clubs learn from the Premier League about recurring payments?

Australian sporting clubs have long looked to overseas sporting codes for ways in which to improve their operations and fan experiences. The UK’s Premier League is a good example of where clubs lead the way on payment strategies.


Clubs in the Premier League have been using bank debit (bank-to-bank Direct Debit) for many years to provide season ticket holders with an easy way to spread the cost of supporting their team, as well as providing operational efficiencies for clubs.

This trend was initially introduced in response to some disappointing season ticket sales for some of the biggest clubs in 2013. Now, in 2019, teams in the Premier League fill their stadiums to 96.5% and boast 520,000 season ticket holders.

In this time, Premier League teams have adopted bank debit, which:

More reliable than credit cards

Members are the lifeblood of any club. But even the Australian sporting clubs with the highest growth still lose high numbers of new members to involuntary churn every year. This often comes down to avoidable causes, such as ticketing, which can be more likely to affect renewal than a team’s performance or other factors.

When the payment method used is unreliable for collecting long-term recurring payments, you will lose members. That’s why a-list teams like Manchester United use bank debit to move members away from payment methods that lead to churn. For example, credit cards expire every three years and can be lost, stolen or cancelled. This leads to failed payments, which leads to involuntarily cancelled memberships and unhappy fans. This, in turn, creates revenue problems for clubs who are trying to take those payments.

Bank debit eliminates these problems, automating the renewal process so that members can renew without having to think about or remembering to renew.

This has given the Premier League’s biggest clubs like Liverpool and Everton the capacity to break payments up into nine or ten smaller instalments, without worry about the admin associated with chasing declined payments. Even teams outside of the established top six or seven, like Leicester City, will start using bank debit in 2019, offering the “convenience of an auto-renewal for the 2020/21 season and beyond.”

Introduce enhanced automation efficiency

Some payment methods are more manual than others. This becomes a problem for Australian sporting clubs because it incurs higher costs than automated procedures, leading to higher costs for the punters, who are quick to criticise clubs for price hikes.

The Premier League had this problem in the past with many fans feeling as if they were being “priced out of games”.

Since bank debit saves clubs money on their overheads by enhancing automation efficiency, many clubs have implemented it as a payment option to improve their margins and even passing these savings onto their members. Teams like Arsenal, for instance, offer discounts for bank debit payments.

A 2019 report from Ernst and Young shows how effective this has been. By offering discounts to season ticket holders, “a quarter of fans pay £20 or less”, even when the average cost of a game is over £30 (roughly $55).

Make members for life

For Australian sporting clubs, churn comes from members who drop-off within the first four years. The flipside of this is that once members make it past the four-year mark, the chances of them churning drop to below 5% per year, for the rest of their life.

This means that stopping involuntary churn for new members is a low hanging fruit which offers far higher ROI per dollar spent than marketing to acquire new members.

This is where Australian clubs can leverage lessons learned from the Premier League, where 18.2% of attendees were members, contributing to its consistent success.

Introducing bank debit will take the pain out of collecting membership fees and improve membership retention so you can focus on putting points on the scoreboard.

Clubs may not realise how significant involuntary churn is to their bottom line. To understand how your team can prevent involuntary churn, speak to one of our subscription payment experts.

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