Nick Place at the Crikey sports desk

Can it be true? In the shadows of the
ticket saga for the World Cup that left so many Australian soccer fans deeply
unhappy, another online ticket application process has raised its controversial

Sit down for this, but Western Australia’s
biggest open-water swim, the Rottnest Channel Swim, a 19.2 km event from
Cottersloe Beach to Thomson Bay on Rottnest Island, is so popular that
organisers also decided to offer the limited number of available entries in an
online ballot this year.

Surprise. Swimmers and teams that have
competed for years duly missed out, and are now asking: why? With no answers
coming back from Perth.

Looking at their website, it reads as
though the Rottnest entry was designed as a true ballot, with everybody having
equal chance – as against the “first-in, first-served” approach used by the FFA.

But event organisers should be wary of
“perception” when they use this method.

For example, one unhappy
non-starter, Karl Morris, says he is still
wondering how and why he missed out. He remains unsure whether 2,500 people
somehow beat him to the punch on their mouse and modem, or does it simply mean his
name wasn’t pulled out of a virtual hat a week later? He’s fired off a series
of emails asking organisers for clarification on all this, but he’s yet to hear
a reply, which is why he’s really snaky.

Any way we look at it, there’s a pattern
emerging with these online applications. While the internet is great for many
things, it might be that its greatest strength is actually not as a fair way, or at least a publicly acceptable way, of doling
out scarce tickets to popular events.

It’s a shocking theory but maybe there are
times when old-fashioned ticket windows and an actual voice down the phone line
are better options?