Indeed, 2011 may well be the year of the mobile payment, what with the rise of Square, the pocket-sized credit card reader that plugs into your phone’s audio jack and the impending release of the much talked about Google Wallet.

In the sports industry, cash and credit cards have long been welcome at sports venues across the globe. Yet with the rise of smartphones and apps like Foursquare and Groupon, more and more fans are likely to use their mobile device while attending a sporting event.

The sports industry is not new to using technology in innovating ways at sporting events. The Seattle Mariners have long been one of the most technologically friendly franchises in pro sports. Since 2007, the Mariners have allowed fans to rent or use their own Nintendo DS systems to look up player stats or order food from the seats at Safeco Field. As smartphones have grown, so too have their usefulness at sporting events. Now fans of teams everywhere can check in on Foursquare or “tweet their seats” to win prizes during games. Paying for items may not be far behind.

PayPal President Scott Thompson predicts that consumers will no longer need to carry wallets by 2015–all payments will be mobile. “We believe that by 2015 digital currency will be accepted everywhere in the U.S. -– from your local corner store to Walmart. We will no longer need to carry a wallet,” Thompson wrote in a blog post announcing PayPal’s 100 millionth account in June.

The transition to mobile payments in the sports industry may happen even earlier. Earlier this year, Stephen Bates, the UK managing director of RIM, BlackBerry’s parent company, announced that his company aims to have a mobile payment system in place in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. “We think [contactless payments] is the right direction for the future…the drive to have a contactless Olympics is quite strong and we are very excited about its potential” Bates told in February.

In the same MarketingWeek blog post, Gerry McQuade, Chief Development Operator of UK mobile provider Everything Everywhere, explains why mobile payments are such an important goal for his company. “This is the beginning of a revolution in how we pay for things. It is a cultural shift that is an important as the launch of the personal credit card or ATMs.”

While it remains to be seen if McQuade’s prediction comes true, what is certain is that fans will have a new way to buy tickets and merchandise with their smartphones. The technology is coming–and soon.

Author: Brendan Wilhide is a co-author of the forthcoming textbook on social media, “Sports Marketing in Social Media,” due to be released next year. He is a freelance social media consultant, the founder of and a contributing writer for You can follow him on Twitter: @BrendanWilhide