SportSG blacklists, suspends 255 ActiveSG accounts over profiteering

Sport Singapore (SportSG) says it has blacklisted and suspended 255 accounts of ActiveSG members found guilty of profiteering from the booking of public sports facilities.

The revelation comes as it vowed to clamp down on the "unscrupulous practice", with Mr Sng Hock Lin, chief of ActiveSG, the national movement for sport, saying: "Such behaviour is wrong, and deprives other ActiveSG members who genuinely want to play sports at our facilities at affordable prices."

His remarks, contained in a statement yesterday, come on the back of two Straits Times reports which documented how this practice has affected recreational athletes in popular sports such as badminton, tennis and football. Both stories reflected the anger of those who were unable to secure slots for themselves, or had to pay rates well above the original, as well as their frustration at the seeming lack of action on the part of facility owners.

Mr Sng noted that SportSG has been monitoring the accounts of such resellers, who use either scripted software such as bots, or recruit individuals online, to book sports facilities en masse and then sell them to users at a tidy profit.

He said that SportSG has "already stepped up on-site enforcement measures", where hirers of the courts are required to be present or the booking will be cancelled. ST understands that this policy has been in place since last year and that the hirer is also required to be part of the playing party.

Noting that such measures may inconvenience genuine sports enthusiasts, he said countermeasures will be deployed "judiciously", but warned that enforcement will intensify if these practices go unabated.

He acknowledged that some of these errant ActiveSG members "have gone further to encourage others to 'lend' their accounts to them for such purposes" and that stricter penalties are being considered against such individuals.

"These could include increasing suspensions and permanently barring them and their accomplices from booking all public facilities, and working with other facility owners to do the same," he added.

He reiterated that "on-selling is absolutely prohibited", and urged members of the public not to procure public sports facilities from these resellers. He warned that those who do so risk being denied use of the facilities when they show up at the courts because SportSG will cancel bookings that bear "evidence of on-selling".

Members are also being encouraged to contact SportSG to report such instances.

Mr Sng added that ActiveSG will continue to remind members not to deploy bots as "exploiting the system and profiteering are infringements of Sport Singapore's terms of use for ActiveSG facilities".

An expert ST spoke to said that besides on-site checks, there are also ways to combat the practice of reselling using technology.

Mr Liu Siyong, the general manager of technology service provider CFB Bots who is also a recreational tennis player, suggested introducing a Web application firewall that can detect access by bots as well as implementing captcha, where a user or bot would need to identify pictures.

He urged resellers to "think of the consequences" of their actions, saying: "In this digital world, it is difficult to do things anonymously. You will always leave behind a digital footprint."

Recreational badminton player S. Levain, 27, who works in the marine industry, welcomed SportSG's stance: "It's good to know that the authorities are serious about wanting to change this situation... I hope the booking process improves."

However, Ms E. Yang, a 35-year-old executive assistant who is also a recreational badminton player, remained somewhat sceptical.

She said: "There are still some loopholes. Even if one account gets banned, they can create new accounts.

"Ensuring that hirers of courts must be present can be one way (of enforcement), but will they really verify the IC or will they just check the receipt of the booking?

"The person who booked the court can be there to join the game for a while and do this for show."

Lab technician Kenny Koh, 28, another keen shuttler, lamented that the countermeasures do not "educate the community on the core issue of not taking advantage of the system and being more inclusive".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2021, with the headline 'SportSG blacklists, suspends 255 ActiveSG accounts over profiteering'. Subscribe