THE millionaire businessman who rejuvenated the fortunes of Larne FC has turned down an offer which potentially could have led to him being made a Freeman of Mid & East Antrim Borough.
Kenny Bruce, the founder of global estate agency Purplebricks and owner of Larne Football Club, instead said that the people of Larne should be awarded the highest civic honour by the local council.
As first reported on Thursday by ‘Ballymena Daily’ a motion was due to be brought to the Council tonight by DUP councillor Gregg McKeen to offer the freedom to Mr Bruce.
However, that will now be withdrawn after the businessman made clear he did not want it, the News Letter reports.
Mr Bruce said that he prefers to concentrate on his work with the club.
He said: “I am delighted and honoured to have been put forward for consideration for the freedom of Mid and East Antrim.
“However, while I feel immense pride regarding this proposal and sincerely thank those behind it, my focus at this time very much remains on continuing our incredible journey with Larne FC and building on the fantastic work of our community to date.
“Larne and its people are embedded in my heart and over the coming months and years I am committed to placing our club and the town firmly on the map in terms of football and wider economic regeneration and community spirit.”
He continued: “I have been overwhelmed by the support of the council to deliver key projects and initiatives to improve facilities, services and sport in Larne, and I continue to work with the Chief Executive, her team and the councillors to realise our vision for the area.
“I want to put on record my thanks again for this gesture, but in my opinion it is the people of Larne who at this time should be considered for such a prestigious accolade for all they have done and continue to do.”
Councillor McKeen paid tribute to Mr Bruce, who he described as a local hero.
He said: “I want to pay tribute to our inspirational local hero, Kenny Bruce.
“When Kenny arrived back at Larne he had a huge vision and outlined his dream for his club and the town.
“In the relatively short time he has been here, he has made immense strides and invested heavily in the club, the infrastructure and the local area.
“Larne FC is much bigger than a football team. Due to Kenny, it now sits at the heart of our community, providing so many initiatives and so much support for our people.
“He is the definition of a hometown hero. I fully appreciate why he has so graciously declined the awarding of the Freedom of the Borough.
“The way he continues to conduct himself is the mark of the man and I look forward to working with him as he continues to transform sport in our borough.”
The Purplebricks co-founder Bruce, a native of Larne and lifelong fan of the town’s football club, took over the club in September 2017.
At the time it was languishing around the bottom of the Irish League’s second tier and playing in front of an average crowd of just 50.
Now the club plays in the Irish Premiership with crowds regularly over 1,000 and Mr Bruce has stated that he wants to bring Champions League football to Larne.
When ‘Ballymena Daily’ reported on the ‘Freedom’ suggestion there was a mixed reaction.
Bannside TUV councillor Timothy Gaston had said on our Facebook page: “I despair at times. Absolutely nothing against Mr Bruce as I don’t know him but what are the DUP thinking bringing a proposal for Freedom of Borough at a cost of 30 / 40k when we have placed staff on Furlough to save money…1 in 3 employers talking about laying workers off and they’re thinking about a Freedom of the Borough ceremony.”