A blockchain startup partnered with major European football clubs is planning to use the controversial Covid-19 immunity passports to grant fans access to stadiums.
Chiliz has announced that it has begun working on a blockchain-based solution to allow soccer fans to gradually return to the stadiums — provided that they hold a government-issued “immunity pass.”
According to its blog post dated April 13, the proposed Socios Pass could be a solution to mitigate some of the damage to the sports industry caused by the novel Coronavirus pandemic.
While some countries in Europe, including Italy, are already drafting plans for an eventual return to normalcy, the general understanding is that soccer events will be held behind closed doors for the foreseeable future.
Indeed, one football match on Feb. 19 is often blamed for seeding the initial outbreak in Italy, centered around the city of Bergamo.
These plans could be a major blow to the football industry, which draws a significant part of its revenues from selling stadium tickets, Chiliz says.
A potential solution touted by some scientists and politicians is that of an “immunity passport” which would certify that its holder has already been infected with the Coronavirus. Though the science behind re-infection remains unsettled, this would hopefully mean that the person cannot contract or spread the disease, which would allow them to attend mass gatherings and live a normal life.
The Socios Pass would work by connecting with the user’s digital immunity certificate after passing a know-your-customer procedure on its website.
The fans would then show a one-time QR code to stewards at the gates of the stadium, who would quickly confirm the identity of the person.
Is this practical?
Immunity passports have been criticized for a large variety of reasons, both practical and ideological.
For one, it would create strong incentives for people to get infected on purpose, which would defeat the purpose of restrictive containment measures, as some experts warn.
There are also significant issues with the rate of false positives of the antibody tests used for certification. These tests are so far too imprecise to be used for anything more than statistical estimates.
Potential social issues and concerns of government overreach also contribute to make this proposal unpalatable, for now.
Alexandre Dreyfus, the CEO of Chiliz, told Cointelegraph that Socios Pass is a way to be prepared if governments decide to institute immunity passports despite all criticism.
The fact that it is blockchain-based would help alleviate concerns of data privacy, he argued:
“We don’t want to have access to the data, we WILL NOT. We just connect the dots to allow the security agent in front of a stadium to let you in. Blockchain can help to ensure that information about people are not altered (bribes, etc.).”
Dreyfus agreed that the solution is not ideal, but he believes that there are currently no other choices for fans to watch their football games. “This is just a tool to ensure better safety in massive public venues,” he noted.
It remains to be seen if Socios Pass will ever see the light of day, however.