$300 for an ActiveSG Football Field? Resellers Deny Profit

ActiveSG
ActiveSG

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You can count on scalpers to turn everything into a bidding war, including everyday sports courts. The past four months have seen a surge of resellers hawking playing slots in badminton, football and even golf, for dubious prices with giant mark-ups. To much frustration, these opportunistic hawkers are profiteering from heightened demand for these sport facilities.

Essentially, these scalpers are robbing casual players and enthusiasts of their interest points, and social getaways. Previously, the ActiveSG booking system for these communal facilities put players to test, with a ā€œfastest fingers firstā€ system, but with few who were left disappointed.Ā 

Now, a large majority of players are left disappointed, with most having to turn to resale platforms such as Carousell, Meetup.com, Telegram, or Facebook. The shady practice has in fact removed any opportunity for those looking to genuinely book courts on the ActiveSG platform.

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Badminton Singapore Facebook Group

Word is that resellers have been using bots to buy out all slots out within literal minutes, as soon as the clock strikes 12 midnight. The fingers of an exhausted professional neck-deep in work, or an activity-craving elderly person, simply donā€™t stand a chance.Ā 

They are simply met with four disappointing words: ā€œno available slots foundā€.

“I used to play at Clementi Sports Hall earlier in the year because it was still possible then to do some bookings. You had to be punctual and log on at 7am to book,” said Levain S. “But now it is almost impossible.ā€Ā 

As it stands, the problem afflicts public facilities for football, badminton, table tennis, and golf.

On most occasions, these resellers are making very large profits.

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TCB Sports Pte Ltd

For a badminton court, a booking on the ActiveSG app typically costs $3.50 for an hour of playtime during non-peak periods, and $7 an hour during evening peak periods. But checks on Carousell reveal badminton courts being sold for between $7.80 to $15 for every hour. Most of the courts are available for between one to four hours.Ā 

Even worse, resellers are also selling per-head tickets to group gaming sessions for badminton. On a Reddit thread, one user said that he had joined a Meetup.com badminton group at the OCBC Arena. For that, he had paid $10, along with the 24 other people who had also paid the same amount. It must be ā€œgood businessā€ for scalpers, the user wrote. But despite all of that, the icing on the cake is when resellers say theyā€™re not making a cent of profit.Ā 

Badminton player Koh, said, “it is frustrating to see courts always being snapped up quickly. From 7am to 10pm every day, it is booked. It’s so sad to see that there are people profiteering from this.ā€

“I love the sport and I still want to playā€¦ At the end of the day, what can someone who wants to play badminton do? Either fork up the higher fee to play or just don’t play at all.”

Football fields are also not spared. A field costs only $50 to book on the ActiveSG app, along with a $70 fee for a referee. In an ideal situation, this total of $120 would be split among 22 players, with 11 players to each team. But resellers are charging between $120 to $150 for a single team, easily pocketing a profit of $180.Ā 

“They may argue that they are getting us an opponent and referee, but speaking for those who just want to play a one-off, friendly match, I don’t think it warrants such high prices,” said an undergraduate, who did not want to be named.Ā 

The undergraduate also pointed out that resellers were so callous in their practice that fields would sometimes be left empty even though they were booked.Ā 

“It makes me angry… It is often because the organisers would rather lose their money than give up the slot to other teams who want to play but could not afford the high costs they charge.”

What do these resellers want?

Apart from people with no relation to the sport, looking to blatantly profiteer, there may be other reasons. One tennis enthusiast, who wanted to be known as Chan, said that booking has only become harder over the pandemic. This is primarily due to social distancing regulations and group size limitations increasing demand for court bookings on a whole.Ā 

“It’s absurd because they are using a government facility and depriving citizens of a fair chance to play. These are public courts and nobody should have a monopoly over them,” he said.

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OCBC Arena

Chan also claimed that some of these resellers are coaches and private sporting academies, either simply reselling for higher prices or conducting classes with high fees. Despite all of that, resellers have claimed that they aren’t profiteering. One Straits Times report detailed an investigative visit to the OCBC Arena, where a reseller was spotted.Ā 

A reseller asks, “Is that wrong?”

According to the report, the reseller went by the name of “Andrew”, and would resell court bookings to players. When questioned, he was jittery and said, “I don’t sell courts, these people are all my friends.” When asked why he was not playing badminton with his friends, he said that he was “tired today”.

After that, Andrew was pressed on about why he was collecting money from players. He said, “I’m just an organiser. I just want to promote the sport and I help to pit players of similar skill level. Is that wrong?”

“I am not reselling or making profits. But I am organising and an organiser must be paid right?”

ActiveSG already has regulations in place that state members are not allowed to assign, sublet or resell their bookings of the ActiveSG facility (or part thereof) without prior written consent. Members are also not allowed to conduct any coaching, league operation or business activities in ActiveSG facilities or premises without the prior written approval of ActiveSG.

The same report cites a French national, Bobby, who said he had reported the matter to ActiveSG.Ā  “I saw this taking place and I approached the front desk and told them that a person is running his business in front of the building collecting money from various players. The issue has been highlighted to OCBC Arena but so far no sanctions have been taken.”

Until the ActiveSG platform decides to adopt stricter enforcement of its existing resale regulations, it might take some time before resale prices become more reasonable. Higher prices mean higher barriers to entry for a community that has much joy to glean from sports.Ā 

ā€œMost people will pay whatever it takes because they just have to play. But some people might hang up their rackets, not merely because they canā€™t afford it but because of the principle of itā€¦ For if even one person is lost to sport then it is too high a costā€, wrote Rohit Brijnath, Assistant Sports Editor of Straits Times.Ā 

Join the conversations on THG’sĀ FacebookĀ andĀ Instagram, and get the latest updates viaĀ Telegram.

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