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Singapore-born English Premier League footballer has 'committed offences under the Enlistment Act': MINDEF

Singapore-born English Premier League footballer has 'committed offences under the Enlistment Act': MINDEF

Harry Birtwistle signed a professional contract with Wolves on Wednesday (Oct 27). (Photo: Harry Birtwistle/Instagram)

SINGAPORE: Singaporean English Premier League footballer Harry Birtwistle has failed to register for national service and has committed offences under the Enlistment Act, said the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) on Friday (Oct 29).

Birtwistle, 17, had on Wednesday inked a professional contract with Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers.

In response to media queries, MINDEF said it had rejected his parents’ applications to renounce his citizenship.

"Mr Harry Birtwistle is a Singapore citizen who had stayed in Singapore and also carried a Singapore passport. Under the Enlistment Act, all male Singaporeans are required to serve national service (NS) at age 18 or older," said the ministry.

"Mr Birtwistle's parents applied to renounce his Singapore citizenship. His applications were rejected as renunciation should not be used as a means to evade NS duties. In his family's correspondences with the Ministry of Defence, they had stated that Mr Birtwistle will not be registering for NS."

MINDEF added that Birtwistle is also staying overseas without a valid exit permit.

"Mr Birtwistle has committed offences under the Enlistment Act," it added.

Birtwistle's mother is Singaporean.

His British father, John Birtwistle, said it is essential for his son to retain his UK citizenship to pursue a professional football career in the EPL, given the more stringent work permit requirements imposed on all non-British citizens after Brexit.

"However, Harry himself has never wanted to renounce his citizenship nor intentionally skip national service," he said in a statement sent to CNA.

"Harry was born in Singapore. Harry’s Singaporean mum and his two young siblings live in Singapore and he misses them enormously. Harry has extended family and friends and has deep roots with Singapore, and has long dreamt to play for the Lions or Singapore national team."

He added that he is grateful for the support from the Singapore public towards Harry in the past few days. 

"Regardless of what has been said, Singapore was where he was born and raised, and he is proud to be from there. I dearly hope that we can focus on the football and together get behind Harry and wish him every success in his life," he said.

According to the Straits Times, Birtwistle studied at the Overseas Family School and Dulwich College in Singapore. He moved to England in 2017 and signed a scholarship with Wolves soon after.  

The Wolves defender's situation bears similarities to that of Ben Davis, who plies his trade in England.

In 2018, Davis signed a two-year contract with newly promoted EPL side Fulham. The former Singapore Sports School student had joined the club on a two-year scholarship deal in July 2017. 

However, Davis' application to defer his NS enlistment in 2018 was rejected by MINDEF, which said he did not “meet the criteria for long-term deferment from full-time NS".

Davis was born in Phuket to a Thai mother and an English father. He moved to Singapore at the age of five and subsequently became a citizen.

He has since opted to take up Thai citizenship and is currently on the books of UK third-tier side Oxford United.

Source: CNA/mt(gr)

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