World Cup ticket chaos – in search of facts
by Prof Barry Dwolatzky
I’ve been told (by an angry reader) to “check my facts” before posting stuff on my blog. The facts in question relate to a posting on this blog entitled “Ticket Chaos – an ICT failure or FIFA greed?” [30th May 2010]. In it I tried to make sense of the fact that the World Cup ticketing system had failed dramatically on 28th May – leading to a lot of bad press and public anger.
As both an academic and a software engineer I’m dedicated to checking my facts … so let me try again on the subject of the World Cup ticketing system.
Here’s a list of some facts I’m certain of:
- On 15th April 2010, a batch of World Cup tickets went on sale “over the counter” at FIFA Ticketing Centres, selected branches of Shoprite Checkers and FNB branches. The IT system crashed, making it impossible for many fans to buy tickets in this way.
- Jérôme Valcke, Secretary General of FIFA made a statement to the press in which he apologized and assured the South African public that FIFA’s IT service provider would investigate the problems and sort them out.
- On Friday 28th May the ticketing system crashed again when 90,000 additional tickets went on sale over the counter. There were numerous reports in the local and international media of “chaos” at ticketing offices. Hundreds of people had queued for hours – some of them over-night – in freezing wintery conditions, and walked away with nothing. There was a great deal of anger. In some instances police had to be called to restore order.
- Jérôme Valcke made another public apology and promised to get a report from FIFA’s IT service provider.
These are the facts – the rest of the comments in my “Ticket Chaos” posting were speculation (I did make this point in my posting). In short I tried to understand in technical terms why a critical application like the World Cup ticketing system should crash so dramatically on two occasions? Why were the problems that resulted in the crash on 15th April not sorted out properly by 28th May? Were the reasons technical or financial?
I care about this incident for a number of reasons:
- As a South African I strongly identify with my fellow South African football fans desperate to get tickets that would enable them to see games at those wonderful stadiums we’ve invested so much in building. I’m angry that they were let down by FIFA in this way.
- As a software professional I dislike the fact that the public were let down by an IT system and the professionals tasked with developing and maintaining it. Such failures, particularly when they are so visible, give all IT professionals a bad name.
Since I’m not an investigative journalist, but simply a software engineer with a blog, I’m not able to provide more facts than these. I do have more information, but I will not post it on my blog since most of it is contradictory. This makes it hard to check my facts.
I’m certain, however, that there is a lot more to this story. Either those who know the facts should share them with those of us who care … or an investigative journalist should set to work to find out more.