Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
Children play badminton on a public court at Hong Kong Park Sports Centre in Central in 2020. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

LettersHow is the booking change for sports venues fairer?

  • So-called queuing gangs are often just elderly people trying to make a bit of tea money while online bookings favour the tech-savvy
  • The Leisure and Cultural Services Department should properly study the demand-supply situation before handicapping the physical queue
Feel strongly about this letter, or any other aspects of the news? Share your views by emailing us your Letter to the Editor at [email protected] or filling in this Google form. Submissions should not exceed 400 words, and must include your full name and address, plus a phone number for verification.
I refer to your report on changes to public sports facility bookings as part of a campaign by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department against so-called touts.

The expression “queuing gangs” makes what are often elderly women and men sound much more organised and intimidating than they really are. These are not muscular men in loud T-shirts bused in by SUV. They are lonely souls showing up the night before or in the small hours of the morning to make HK$100 (US$12.70) or HK$200 of tea money; often, they sleep on wheelchairs or the damp ground outside in freezing cold or suffocating heat, with mosquitoes and flies.

Anyone with elementary knowledge of economics knows that touting is rarely the source of the problem but a consequence of demand outpacing supply.

Perhaps the Leisure and Cultural Services Department should have started by analysing the demand-supply situation:

(a) which facilities are over-demanded (and under-demanded) in what hours;

(b) the tally of successes and failures in the two methods of booking (via the internet and queuing).

We can all agree that we don’t have enough public sports facilities and that competition is stiff for the popular hours. But users are groping in the dark. Only the authorities have the data to know where the choke points are.

Personally, I have never succeeded in making an online booking at the 7am opening. By the time I manage to log onto Leisure Link, at around 7.30am, all the hot spots are booked. Hearsay has it that programmers and faster computers snare the prized slots. There is no guarantee the government’s mobile app iAM Smart would be fairer.

The physical queue, however, has been more accommodative. One of my badminton pals drives a taxi. Towards the end of his graveyard shift, wherever he is, he stops by the nearest public sports facility. Though often not the first in line, he has been able to get some slots and I am among the beneficiaries.

Without some study of (b), why is the Leisure and Cultural Services Department handicapping the physical queue? Why is it trying to penalise the cab drivers in favour of the tech-savvy? Perhaps the local expression says it well, “kill the innocent rather than let anyone get away”; is everyone in the queue being demonised as a tout because the department is unable to sort out the situation?

It is still possible to expand supply. There are under-utilised facilities in clubs. The department could rent them or simply facilitate arrangements between the facilities and regular players.

George Hui, Sha Tin