Ben Davis NS deferment

Ben Davis at his professional contract signing for Fulham in 2018. Photo from Fulham FC.

Differing opinions with regards to Ben Davis’ appeal for National Service (NS) deferment surfaced when the teenager was offered to sign an exclusive professional contract with Fulham football club in 2018. Fulham FC is an English Premier League side and Davis was contracted to play for their senior team.  


Benjamin James Davis (Ben Davis) is a Singaporean footballer who currently plays for Fulham football club as a midfielder. He represented Singapore Sports School in inter-school competitions from 2013 to 2015 and played for the Fulham Under-18 Team from 2017 to 2018. He has also participated in the Singapore National Under-16, Under-18 and Under-19 teams.[1]

Background

 
Ben Davis (left) and his father (right) at the signing of the Fulham scholarship in 2017. Photo from Fulham FC.

Since leaving Singapore for England in 2016, Ben Davis had been playing football for Harrow High School in London.[2] In 2017, Ben Davis was awarded a 2-year scholarship by Fulham Academy making him the first Fulham scholar from Singapore.[3] The academy is ranked highly in England alongside the academies of popular football names such as Arsenal and Chelsea.[4]


In 2018, Ben Davis was offered a professional contract with Fulham FC. As an existing football academy player, Davis’ monthly contracted salary would range from an estimated SGD$2,160 to SGD$2,330.[5] Additionally, this contract bound him to the football club until June 2020.[6] This professional contract ultimately conflicted with his National Service enlistment, as it meant that he would be unable to fulfill his National Service until the stipulated end date of his contract.

Davis’ position

According to FIFA rules, Ben Davis is eligible to play for the Singapore national team given his Singapore citizenship which he attained in 2009.[7] He is also able to represent the Thailand national team, as he was born in Phuket, Thailand. Ben Davis is also allowed to play for the England national team through his father’s heritage.


Ben Davis returned to Singapore in August 2017 for his pre-enlistment National Service medical check-up, a prerequisite to apply for deferment. Ben Davis’ father, Harvey Davis appealed to the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) with regards to Ben Davis’ deferment application via email on 15 May 2018. Harvey Davis himself is the founder of JSSL, a private football academy in Singapore.[8] He states that his older son has already served and completed his National Service, and he intends for Ben Davis and his younger son to follow suit eventually.[9]

Ministry of Defence’s decision

 
Joseph Schooling is 1 of the 3 national sportsmen who had been exempted from NS in the past 15 years. Photo from Joseph Schooling's Facebook.

Ministry Of Defence (MINDEF) rejected Ben Davis’ appeal for long-term deferment. The decision was made while liaising with MCCY and was conveyed to Ben Davis and his parents on 11 June 2018.


On 17 July 2018, Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How asserted that in the case of a repeated appeal following Ben Davis’ first rejection, there should be fresh facts brought to the table for reconsideration.[10] A day later, Sport Singapore (SportSG) also gave a statement on the matter, stating that they fully supported MINDEF’s decision to reject Ben Davis’ deferment application.[11] Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen explained the Ministry’s decision to reject Ben Davis’ deferment appeal in Parliament on 6 August 2018.[12] Firstly, on the Fulham website, Ben Davis’ official nationality is listed as English, not Singaporean.[13] Hence, he does not fulfill the key criteria for deferment, which are granted only to those who are taking time off National Service in order to better serve Singapore's interest.

MINDEF repeated the assertion that for athletes, long-term deferment is only granted to those who will represent Singapore at top-tier international competition.[14] These athletes are accessed to be likely medal winners for Singapore. In the past 15 years, only 3 sportsmen have managed to be granted long-term deferment. Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, both national swimmers as well as Maximilian Soh, a national sailor were granted deferments in 2016 and 2007 respectively.[15] MINDEF cited examples of talented footballers who served National Service before pursuing their professional football careers. These included local football legend Fandi Ahmad’s sons, Irfan and Ikhsan Fandi, whom both dutifully completed their National Service.


Another reason is that in multiple cases, Harvey Davis had not indicated a definite date as to when his son would return to do his National Service should he be deferred. He said this was due to the uncertainty surrounding the future of Ben Davis’ career in professional football. Furthermore, Harvey Davis publicly stated that he would prioritise Ben Davis’ football career, and would consider renouncing Ben Davis’ Singapore citizenship.[16]

Reactions

Football Association Singapore

On 17 July 2018, the Football Association Singapore released their statement on this matter. They stated that they strongly supported Ben Davis’ application for deferment, and they believe that the deferment would provide Ben Davis with the opportunity to flourish and develop further as an athlete.[17]

Netizens

Netizens have also expressed support for Ben Davis’ appeal for MINDEF to review their decision, with 10,000 signatures being collected on an online petition as of 17 July 2018.[18] The petition titled “NS Deferment for Ben Davis to Develop Singapore Football Talent” was initiated by user j chan on the website change.org.[19] As of 8 January 2019, the petition (official petition website) is still available, with close to 25,000 signatures.

Joseph Schooling

On 18 July 2018, Joseph Schooling commented on Ben Davis’ situation at the Singapore Sports Awards. His advice for Ben Davis was for him to follow his dreams, and communicate with his parents to decide on the best course of action for him to follow.

Final verdict

Ben Davis has signed his Fulham professional contract on 29 June 2018 despite rejection of long-term deferment by MINDEF on 11 June 2018.


It is unclear whether Ben Davis has renounced his Singapore citizenship. Since Ben Davis is not over 21 years old it is unlikely that his application would be accepted. The requirements to be fulfilled before one can renounce their citizenship has been clearly stated by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) in the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore. In Article 128 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, it is stated that the Singapore government has the right to withhold the renouncement of any Singaporean’s citizenship, should they be younger than 21 years old.[20]


On 18 February 2019, MINDEF officially addressed the matter, stating that Ben Davis had failed to turn up to serve his NS term as required. MINDEF does not condone his actions, asserting that Ben Davis has effectively defaulted on his NS by being abroad without a valid Exit Permit. This results in him being potentially convicted for offences under the Enlistment Act. If convicted, Ben Davis will be liable to face monetary penalties of up to SGD$10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 3 years.[21]

References / Citations

  1. Dasey, Jason. “Fulham teenager Ben Davis cleared to play for Singapore U18 team”. ESPN. November 2, 2017. Accessed on 7 January 2019. Retrieved from: http://www.espn.com/soccer/blog-football-asia/story/3255334/fulham-teenager-ben-davis-cleared-to-play-for-singapore-u18-team
  2. Luis, Ernest. “Everything you need to know about Fulham’s Ben Davis – the first Singaporean footballer signed by an English Premier League club”. Business Insider Singapore. July 18, 2018. Accessed on 9 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.businessinsider.sg/ben-davis-fulham-first-singaporean-footballer-english-premier-league-club/
  3. ESPN Staff. “Singapore teenager Davis signed by Fulham, hopes for NS deferment”. ESPN. July 17, 2017. Accessed on 7 January 2019. Retrieved from: http://www.espn.com/soccer/blog/football-asia/153/post/3159053/singapore-teenager-davis-signed-by-fulham-hopes-for-ns-deferment
  4. Luis, Ernest. “Everything you need to know about Fulham’s Ben Davis – the first Singaporean footballer signed by an English Premier League club”. Business Insider Singapore. July 18, 2018. Accessed on 9 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.businessinsider.sg/ben-davis-fulham-first-singaporean-footballer-english-premier-league-club/
  5. Ibid.
  6. Chin. Nigel. “MINDEF rejects Fulham signee Ben Davis' application for NS deferment”. Channel NewsAsia. July 15, 2018. Accessed on 7 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/mindef-rejects-fulham-signee-ben-davis-application-for-ns-10530834
  7. Luis, Ernest. “Everything you need to know about Fulham’s Ben Davis – the first Singaporean footballer signed by an English Premier League club”. Business Insider Singapore. July 18, 2018. Accessed on 9 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.businessinsider.sg/ben-davis-fulham-first-singaporean-footballer-english-premier-league-club/
  8. Sazali Abdul Aziz. “Fulham sign Singapore teen on two-year scholarship”. The New Paper. July 17, 2017. Accessed on 9 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.tnp.sg/sports/singapore-football/fulham-sign-singapore-teen-two-year-scholarship
  9. Osman. Shamir. “Football: No National Service deferment for Fulham teen Ben Davis, says Mindef”. The Straits Times. July 14, 2018. Accessed on 7 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/sport/football/football-no-national-service-deferment-for-fulham-teen-ben-davis-says-mindef
  10. Khan, Ahmad. Mohan, Matthew. “Ben Davis' NS deferment appeal will be rejected if same facts presented: Heng Chee How” Channel NewsAsia. July 17, 2018. Accessed on 8 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/ben-davis-ns-deferment-appeal-heng-chee-how-10537648?cid=h3_referral_inarticlelinks_24082018_cna
  11. “Sport Singapore supports MINDEF's decision to reject Ben Davis' deferment application”. Channel NewsAsia. July 18, 2018. Accessed on 8 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/sport-singapore-supports-mindef-decision-to-reject-ben-davis-10541308
  12. Muhammad Sazali Abdul Aziz. “Parliament: Ben Davis is playing for Fulham as an English national, not as a Singapore citizen, says Ng Eng Hen”. The Straits Times. August 6, 2018. Accessed on 8 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/ben-davis-is-playing-for-fulham-as-an-english-national-not-as-a-singapore-citizen-ng-eng
  13. Fulham FC. Accessed on 8 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.fulhamfc.com/player-profiles/ben-davis
  14. Muhammad Sazali Abdul Aziz. “Parliament: Ben Davis is playing for Fulham as an English national, not as a Singapore citizen, says Ng Eng Hen”. The Straits Times. August 6, 2018. Accessed on 8 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/ben-davis-is-playing-for-fulham-as-an-english-national-not-as-a-singapore-citizen-ng-eng
  15. Ungku, Fathin. “First Singaporean Premier League player may appeal military service”. Reuters. July 16, 2018. Accessed on 7 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-soccer-singapore-conscription/first-singaporean-premier-league-player-may-appeal-military-service-idUKKBN1K61K0
  16. Ungku, Fathin. “First Singaporean Premier League player may appeal military service”. Reuters. July 16, 2018. Accessed on 7 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-soccer-singapore-conscription/first-singaporean-premier-league-player-may-appeal-military-service-idUKKBN1K61K0
  17. “FAS MEDIA STATEMENT ON BENJAMIN DAVIS’ NS DEFERMENT REQUEST”. Football Association Singapore. July 17, 2018. Accessed on 7 January 2019. Retrieved from: http://www.fas.org.sg/fas-media-statement-on-benjamin-davis-ns-deferment-request/
  18. Kok, Yufeng. Yong, Clement. “Over 10,000 sign petition for Mindef to reconsider Ben's deferment”. The New Paper. July 17, 2018. Accessed on 8 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.tnp.sg/sports/singapore-football/over-10000-sign-petition-mindef-reconsider-bens-deferment
  19. “NS Deferment for Ben Davis to Development Singapore Football Talent”. Change.org. Accessed on 8 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.change.org/p/mindef-ns-deferment-for-ben-davis-to-develop-singapore-football-talent.
  20. Attorney-General’s Chambers. Accessed on 8 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/CONS1963?ProvIds=pr128-#pr128-
  21. Mohan, Matthew. “Footballer Ben Davis has defaulted on NS obligations: MINDEF”. ChannelNewsAsia. February 19, 2019. Accessed on 18 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/footballer-ben-davis-has-defaulted-on-ns-obligations-mindef-11253548?cid=FBcna&fbclid=IwAR3qPtD9ErWfLxYUWdKsQ3-UWWrUKBgADdo7RWbJ8axUoA2zOPVtesB9Shk