Legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell famously wondered: “Is football a game or a religion?” We may finally get some answers when the NFL’s 2021 season officially kicks off on Thursday (Sept. 9) with a showdown between the Dallas Cowboys and 2020 Super Bowl Champs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — as the COVID delta variant has some fans praying that it’s safe to attend.
(Full disclosure: PYMNTS is Boston-based. We’ll try to control the Tom Brady jibes. No promises.)
Thursday’s game is slated for Florida’s Raymond James Stadium, site of Super Bowl LV in February 2021, where said quarterback was annoyingly victorious with a new team. Those attending will enter a stadium on the cutting-edge of pandemic payments.
Think of it as the digital shift of football, making it more of a customer experience than a nuisance.
Tampa’s NBC affiliate, WFLA-8, reported in August that “fans can expect to see many of the same COVID-19 safety protocols that were implemented last season … things like mobile ticketing, cashless concessions and touchless devices inside bathrooms.”
Visa reupped its contract with the NFL back in 2019, at which time Lynne Biggar, Visa’s chief marketing and communications officer, said, “Looking ahead, we see a cashless future for NFL fans where events, including future Super Bowls, are digitally creating a more secure and seamless payment environment for fans and concessionaires alike.”
At Super Bowl LV, that included the use of reverse ATMs for loading cash onto prepaid cards for stadium concessions. This and more is found in “Visa’s Guide to Touchless Payments: A Key to the Return of Live Events,” which breaks down six steps to touchless payments for all stadiums.
A key discovery from Super Bowl LV: people spend more on cashless concessions. Keep that in mind as we map out a playbook for the 2021 NFL season and its new commerce characteristics.
Related news: Visa, NFL Team up for Cashless Super Bowl
Fantasy Football Filling a Void
For the millions who can’t be there for the Sept. 9 kickoff, there’s the infinite world of online fantasy football. Major player DraftKings got out in front of the action with its tempting NFL $5M Fantasy Football Millionaire contest, sure to draw virtual crowds and digital dollars.
Not to be bested, Fanduel is hawking its online sports betting capability, currently legal in 11 states, and its Daily Fantasy sportsbook, available in 44 states at this writing.
And there’s always TV. On Thursday (Sept. 2), CNET offered its lineup of picks for the best options — streaming and otherwise — to follow the NFL action as it happens.
As for the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association (FSGA), their position is clear: the advocacy group is declaring in a series of position papers that “sports betting must be mobile,” arguing that “unlike brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, mobile sportsbooks require every person to sign up for an account, which includes a rigorous identity verification process.”
We didn’t expect AML/KYC to extend to fantasy football, but we didn’t expect Brady to quit the Pats. Point is, there are no sure things in sports wagering or sports heroes. Right, TB-12?
Someone should change that to “TBD.” But we digress.
Forewarned is forearmed, so maybe check out these tips from Sporting News on fantasy football auction dollar values and navigating the endless combinations thereof.
Gridiron Glory Tackles Real-Time Payments
In whatever way one wagers this NFL season, the winners want to get paid fast. It’s a byproduct of the digital shift, with real-time payments (RTP) squarely on the 10-yard line.
In a recent chat with PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster, The Clearing House’s Senior Vice President of Products and Strategy Steve Ledford said: “Payments are payments — when they go through a network originated by a treasury management bank, they all kind of look alike. It’s how the payments are being used and integrated with what the customer is doing — that’s where the creativity comes in, like what Fifth Third has done with Mazooma with gaming and sports betting. We’re happy to see folks using the network in ways we never would have dreamed.”
Just like so many of us never dreamed that a certain quarterback would leave a certain New England football franchise that shall remain nameless. If you’re truly curious, Patriots GM Bill Belichick was asked in a recent presser about the team’s ongoing quarterback snafus. In Belichickian fashion, he gave this loquacious reply to Sports Illustrated: “Yeah, I don’t know.”
For those who follow the sport — and this team — it bears noting that Belichick’s Machiavellian maneuvering reared its head again in August with the sudden sacking of presumptive QB Cam Newton. Mac Jones is the Pats’ new starter. Incidentally, Mac is “Cam” spelled backward.
That could be why USA Today Sports said: “Bill Belichick is an absolute savage. When he’s ready to part ways with a player, he’ll just do it. In the blink of an eye. No questions asked.”
Not our words. We have journalistic objectivity, even about you-know-who and what’s-his-face.