Singapore footballer Ben Davis signed with Fulham despite knowing his national service deferment application had been rejected

Ben Davis becomes the first Singaporean to sign a professional contract with an English Premier League club – Fulham – on June 29. 
Fulham FC

Singapore footballer Ben Davis, at 17, became the first Singaporean to sign a professional contract with an English Premier League (EPL) club – Fulham – on June 29.

It is a two-year contract but he continues to be in the news, after his application for the deferment of full-time National Service (NS) in Singapore was rejected.

Ben and his parents had been informed of the rejection of their application by the authorities 18 days earlier, on June 11, before they signed the contract.

The teenager’s father Mr Harvey Davis, told The Straits Times that the family “will be working with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) over the appeal for deferment”, and has declined to comment further.

If the appeal is rejected, Ben will have to return in December, a month after his 18th birthday.

Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (Mindef) issued a media statement on Wednesday (July 18) explaining its decision.

It read: “The Ministry of Defence recognises Mr. Benjamin Davis’ achievement in securing a senior contract with Fulham Football Club (FC).

“However, deferment from National Service (NS) is granted for exceptional sportsmen to represent our national interest and not their own career development.

“When granted, deferment is given for a defined period after which these sportsmen must return to fulfil their NS duties. Mr Davis’ application does not meet the deferment criteria and was therefore turned down.”

Mindef also revealed in the statement that Ben signed the professional contract with Fulham despite knowing that his application for NS deferment has been rejected.

In an earlier statement on July 14, Mindef had said that its rejection of the application for deferment was communicated to Ben and his parents on June 11 – 18 days before Ben went on to sign a two-year professional contract with Fulham.

In its latest statement now, Mindef also added: “When asked during the deferment application process when Mr Davis intended to return and serve NS, Mr Davis’ father would not commit to a date and expressed that he would put Mr Davis’ professional career first.”

The statement continued to read: “Mr Davis went on to sign the contract despite the rejection for deferment and his father has publicly stated that he would encourage Mr Davis to renounce his Singapore citizenship in order to pursue his career.

“Mr Davis’ actions are meant to further his own professional career, not national interest. As his father openly admitted, he is looking out for his son’s future, not Singapore’s. They have no intention of returning to fulfil their son’s NS duties, especially if Mr Davis is given a full professional contract after the two years of his senior contract.

“To allow deferment for this type of appeal, would severely undermine the ethos and sacrifice of Singaporeans who have all put aside their personal interests to complete their NS duties.

“Many talented sportsmen, including footballers, have completed their NS dutifully first before pursuing their professional careers. Mindef has in place schemes during full-time NS to enable them to continue training to retain and improve their skills.

“We also provide additional training opportunities in the lead-up to major games such as the Southeast Asian and Olympic Games where our sportsmen represent Singapore and do us proud.”

Mindef had said earlier on July 14: “In sports, deferments are granted only to those who represent Singapore in international competitions like the Olympic Games and are potential medal winners for Singapore. In the last 15 years, only three have met this criteria.”

Singapore’s first Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling and fellow swimmer Quah Zheng Wen were given NS deferment to compete at the 2016 Olympics and again for the 2020 Games in Tokyo. Sailor Maximillian Soh was the other athlete who was granted a year-long deferment in 2007 to compete at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

On July 17, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said it will work with Ben and his family on the appeal to find a “balanced” solution.

Read also: Everything you need to know about Fulham’s Ben Davis – the first Singaporean to be signed by an English Premier League club