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Manchester City dampens talk of facial recognition at Etihad Stadium

English Premier League football club Manchester City has moved to play down reports that it will seek to employ facial recognition technology to aid ticketing systems at its Etihad Stadium.

The Sunday Times newspaper said City has appointed US technology firm Blink Identity to conduct a pilot scheme through which a single super-fast lane will be trialled for supporters seeking to access Etihad Stadium on matchdays.

Fans will reportedly register for the scheme by providing a selfie taken by their mobile phone. A face scan will then determine whether a fan has a ticket for a game, potentially ending the need for turnstiles.

Mary Haskett, Blink Identity’s co-founder and chief executive, said, according to the Times: “If you are standing in line, you’re not having fun or having a good time.

“A game only lasts so long, and your ability to sell food and beverages and T-shirts is limited to that time. So if you can get them in faster, it makes everybody happy.”

However, a Manchester City source told The Guardian that reports of a pilot facial recognition scheme were premature and there is no such plan in place.

Blink Identity, which is based in Austin, Texas, last month said it would pilot its facial recognition solutions at the Etihad Stadium after success in the recent five-day City Startup Challenge in Manchester, which was run by City Football Group (CFG).

The Ticketmaster-backed company gained a pilot project opportunity at the Etihad Stadium by demonstrating its proprietary facial recognition solution and how it can enhance the fan experience and engagement.

At the time, Blink Identity said it was chosen to start work with CFG in the coming weeks, facilitating its VIP and academy access solutions.

In May, Blink entered into a partnership with entertainment company Live Nation, Ticketmaster’s parent company, for an initial rollout of facial recognition technology for its organisation.

Plans include the use of Blink’s walking-speed biometric solution at venues to facilitate admission to live shows and more.

In other news, City’s Premier League rival Chelsea has taken legal action against 11 ticket touts, one of whom has received a six-month jail sentence, operating in the locality of Stamford Bridge on and around matchdays.

The High Court has ordered injunctions which stop these touts from trading in tickets to matches at Chelsea’s stadium as well as preventing them from loitering or waiting near the ground prior to matchdays. The club said it will act to fully enforce these orders.

Breaching the orders imposed by the Court can lead to sanctions including prison sentences. One of the touts has been sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for contempt of court in connection with an injunction.

All 11 touts have been ordered to pay the club’s costs incurred in putting a stop to their behaviour. This amounts to more than £170,000 (€186,000/$206,000) in total. The action is part of an ongoing undercover operation which will continue throughout the 2019-20 season.