Case studies

Open banking in the community – YesRef and TrueLayer

27 June 2022

YesRef is a sports platform that aims to make finding and paying sports officials quick and simple by connecting a wide range of sports clubs, businesses, and referees.

The business was established in August 2019, by CEO, Olly Rodriguez-Ballinger, and COO, Ben Williamson, after Olly – a lifelong sports enthusiast and qualified sports official – experienced first-hand the difficulty in both finding games to officiate and being paid.

YesRef now has over 115 different organisations across England and Scotland using its platform across 13 different sports. These include governing bodies such as Basketball Scotland, Berks & Bucks FA, educational institutions such as the University of Greenwich, City University of London, and Nottingham Trent University, and competitions such as the Hellenic League as well as a range of grassroots and professional clubs and businesses.

Its clients vary from employees, amateurs, and professionals at these organisations, to volunteers planning their favourite sports in their spare time.

Olly explains the YesRef journey. “We discovered open banking when we came across challenges with building our product and needed to meet our objective to pay sports officials in real-time. We spent a lot of time researching the various banking rails and understanding how money is both processed and transacted and it was quickly apparent that the open banking solution proved the only viable option to achieve our objective.

“We carried out detailed market research and conducted interviews with open banking operators across the UK to find a payment platform to partner with.”

Real-time payments for sports officials

YesRef wanted to provide sports officials with real-time payments from the organisations they refereed for. These organisations were starting to go cashless and the pandemic hugely accelerated this trend.

Olly continues: “The challenge with replacing cash for sports organisations and officials is the individual on match day typically doesn’t have access to the organisational bank account, and the official has to share bank details and wait for payment. We needed to provide them with a solution that enables money to flow seamlessly to the official on matchday while keeping the organisation in control.”

To meet this challenge, YesRef utilised TrueLayer’s open banking platform to help it deliver a complete solution to sports organisations and officials, combined with a Wise emoney account.

Olly explains: “We had developed a process with existing payment rails we knew worked well with our customers from our proof of concept. The transition to YesRef payments took about four to six weeks to build, test and push into production. Once we went live, there were very few issues or bugs to fix. The product has been seamless.”

It’s a simple process:

  1. A sports official signs up to the platform, registers their bank details and availability to referee.
  2. Once a game is complete, the team or sporting organisation notifies YesRef, and pays the referee’s fees and expenses into YesRef’s emoney account.
  3. YesRef then disburses the payment into the official’s bank account in near real-time.

YesRef operates a simple pricing model. For sports officials, the platform is completely free to use. Sports organisations can choose to use a transaction-based model, i.e. pay-as-you-go, or make use of the subscription model, which is suitable for organisations which run and manage multiple games and events each month. There are no sign-up fees.

One of the team at London’s New City College says: “YesRef gives us the freedom to pay referees on the day of the game and keep track of all of the costs, all in one place.”

Customer education – a new way to pay

The biggest barrier YesRef had to overcome was educating customers about a new way to pay for a service. When the team were building and testing the platform, they didn’t enable any payment method which allowed card payments. Having a single payment option – just to YesRef – gave its customers clarity, as well as demonstrating the open banking alternative.

Olly points out that, after the first experience, customer feedback was that this is a straightforward payment method, keeping the payee in control and allowing YesRef to build up trust with its customers.

One client at Braishfield Bees Football Club says, “The YesRef solution means our club coaches don’t ever have to pay the referee fees themselves and claim back from the club.”

The combined experience – not just paying, but delivering near real-time payments to sports officials – has been well received. The simplicity of the product, the huge reduction in administration, only one payee (YesRef) and providing their sports officials with real-time payments has proved hugely successful.

Olly observes that without the open banking functionality, a service like this would not be possible, due to the constraints of the existing payment rails.

He concludes: “Any organisation looking to collect or process payments, before adopting or automatically considering the ‘usual’ options, should consider an open banking solution. The speed and cost to implement is likely to be very similar, yet transaction processing rates are likely to be more competitive than banks and card processing merchants. The reduction in fraudulent payments is also very attractive.”

Notes to editors

The Open Banking Implementation Entity does not endorse any of the products or companies mentioned here.

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