Sport Singapore (SportSG) has vowed to stop the “unscrupulous practice of a few ActiveSG members” who re-sell bookings in sports facilities to make profit.
In a statement released by SportSG on Friday (5 February), it noted that “such behaviour is wrong, and deprives other ActiveSG members who genuinely want to play sports at our facilities at affordable prices.”
It was earlier reported that recreational athletes in sports like badminton, tennis and football have voiced their frustration towards this terrible practice. They also expressed how the habit of these errant members have made it difficult for them to enjoy these sports, and they highlighted the lack of action taken by facility owners to rectify the issue.
The price for badminton courts at ActiveSG for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents are set at S$3.50 (non-peak hours) and S$5 (peak hours). However, these resellers hike up the prices ranging from S$6 up to S$16 per two-hour slot.
In the statement, SportSG pointed out that it has been keeping track the resellers’ accounts and has “blacklisted and suspended 255 accounts”.
It also went on to note that it has “already stepped up on-site enforcement measures”, where individuals who made the booking of courts have to be present or the booking will be cancelled.
However, this policy has already been in practice since last year and the hirer has to also be part of the playing team, ST stated.
To this, SportSG said that such measures may cause inconvenience to genuine sports enthusiasts, adding that countermeasures will be deployed “judiciously”. However, it asserted that enforcement will be made stricter if these practices go unabated.
If that’s not all, the media statement also revealed that SportSG recognised that some of these errant ActiveSG members “have gone further to encourage others to ‘lend’ their accounts to them for such purposes” and harsher penalties are being considered against these individuals.
“These could include increasing suspensions and permanently barring them and their accomplices from booking all accomplices from booking all public facilities, and working with other facility owners to do the same,” it said, adding that “on-selling is absolutely prohibited”, and urged the public to not book courts at public sports facilities from these resellers.
The organisation also added that members of the public who continue to do so may be denied to use the facilities when they show up at the courts because SportSG will cancel bookings that bear “evidence of on-selling”.
Separately, apart from on-site checks, there are a few ways to counter the practice of reselling using technology, an expert told ST.
Liu Siyong, the general manger of technology service provider CFB Bots who is also a recreational tennis player, said: “They (facility owners) could implement a web application firewall that can detect access by bots. These are tools that are available commercially that can prevent automated bots. What this application does is to basically stop bots from launching actions on the site. These are used on plenty of sites and they are usually used to guard against sinister acts like users wanting to crash a specific site for cases of sabotage.
“An even simpler way is to implement captcha, where a user/bot would need to identify pictures.
“But one reason companies/organisations may not want to turn it on is because it creates inconvenience for the user.”
When asked if there is possibility of an increase in the use of such bots or artificial intelligence being used to game the system, he noted: “I think the question for these people is if there is a commercial incentive to do so. If the market is lucrative enough, you will get people doing whatever they can to try and profit off it. The game will always evolve and it is like a cat-and-mouse game, where the user will always try to get past the measures put in place.
He continued, “But what I would tell these people making bookings through illegal means is this – in this digital world, it is difficult to do things anonymously. You will always leave behind a digital footprint. I would urge them to think of the consequences. Technology is meant to be used for good and not in such a way as to make profits off public facilities.”