Ben Davis' Fulham contract no different from other pre-enlistees' personal pursuits: MINDEF

Ben Davis' Fulham contract no different from other pre-enlistees' personal pursuits: MINDEF

Benjamin Davis in a Singapore training session
Benjamin Davis at a training session with the Singapore national team. (Photo: Football Association of Singapore)

SINGAPORE: Granting Singaporean footballer Ben Davis a deferment from National Service (NS) because of his signing of a professional contract with Fulham would be "unfair" to other pre-enlistees, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said.

In a note sent to NS commanders on Tuesday (Jul 17) seen by Channel NewsAsia, the ministry explains its rejection of Davis' deferment application and said it considered the Fulham contract a "personal pursuit".

"Davis’ signing of a senior contract with Fulham FC is a personal pursuit, no different from the personal pursuits by other pre-enlistees like university studies or working in other professional fields," the note read.

"We know that football is popular among Singaporeans and the EPL has a keen following here. However, granting deferment to Davis would be unfair to other pre-enlistees who put their personal pursuits on hold to serve NS dutifully."

The 17-year-old midfielder has signed a two-year contract with Fulham, the newly promoted Premier League club announced on its website last Friday. Davis, the first Singaporean to ink a professional contract with a top-tier English club, turns 18 in November.

READ: NS could hamper Fulham midfielder Ben Davis' progress, say members of football community

"A key principle of NS is that NS policies are applied fairly to everyone, including enlistment timing. All male Singapore citizens and PRs are required to serve NS at the earliest opportunity after they turn 18 years old, or after their pre-university educational pursuits," MINDEF said.

"Through the years, support for NS has been maintained because this requirement is applied strictly and fairly to all individuals. Long-term deferment should be allowed only in exceptional circumstances."

Citing the example of other NS-liable sportsmen, such as Irfan and Ikhsan Fandi, who chose to complete their NS commitments before pursuing their professional football careers, MINDEF stressed that long-term deferment is only allowed in "exceptional circumstances".

"For sportsmen, MINDEF only grants long-term deferment in exceptional circumstances to those who represent Singapore at top-tier international competitions (eg Olympic Games) and are assessed to be potential medal winners to bring glory to Singapore." 

Recent examples include Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, the ministry said.

"Davis does not meet the criteria to be granted deferment from full-time NS," it said, adding that the decision was made in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

Source: CNA/mt(cy)