A FOOTBALL club owner who has helped mastermind a 3,000 percent rise in attendances has been praised by the Mayor of Mid & East Antrim after being recognised in the Queen’s Birthday 2020 Honours List.
The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston, has been among those paying tribute to Mr Bruce.
Larne man Kenny has been awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for ‘services to charity and the community in Larne, County Antrim’.
Mr Bruce is the co-founder of Purplebricks, the estate agency business that reached a peak valuation of over £1 billion in its first three years from launch.
Since leaving Purplebricks Kenny has continued his personal investment in Larne Football Club with an ambition of making it the number one club in Northern Ireland. He has spearheaded transformational progress.
Kenny has also co-founded a new business with his brother in the property sector named Boomin that will launch later this year.
In 2019, Mr Bruce concentrated on a multi-million-pound personal investment into Larne Football Club.
The Mayor said: “Kenny’s motivation for investing in Larne FC was simple: he wanted to give something back to the team he supported as a child and the town where he grew up.
“His ambition, loyalty and passion for Larne is unparalleled and his support for the town goes beyond Larne FC.
“He has also sponsored a new boat for the rowing club and worked closely with the Music Yard, enabling them to relocate and work with schools, and the elderly and disabled in the borough.
“He has also been a strong supporter of Women’s Aid in Antrim, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Larne and Newtownabbey (Women’s Aid ABCLN), signing the charity’s White Ribbon Charter pledging to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.”
The Mayor continued: “Channeling his life experiences and valuable lessons learned throughout his distinguished and high-profile career, he is personally contributing a significant and lasting economic impact in Larne and the wider borough.
“He is an inspiration to young people, and both aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs alike in what can be achieved through a clear vision and strong ambition, matched with hard work, determination and unfaltering energy.
“Kenny is, without doubt, a most worthy and deserving recipient of this honour from Her Majesty the Queen. On behalf of all at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, I offer our sincere thanks for everything he has done for Larne and the wider borough, together with our congratulations for this terrific achievement.”
Echoing the Mayor’s congratulations, Larne councillor Gregg McKeen said when purchasing Larne FC in 2017, Kenny promised that he would ‘leave a legacy’ in town, vowing to do ‘whatever it takes emotionally, financially and in terms of effort’ to help the Club reach the top in the local game.
“Since day one he has remained true to his word and the results are clear for all to see already. To date, Kenny has committed a £1.4million investment in redeveloping the Club’s Inver Park stadium, focused on making it a hub for sporting activity for the people of Larne and the wider borough. This has included the installation of a new, state-of-the-art 4G playing surface and floodlights.
“Underpinned by his infectious enthusiasm and ambition, Kenny’s leadership has already seen the Club propelled to new levels, having been awarded a club licence by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) earlier this year.”
Larne councillor Paul Reid – and a former chaplain of Larne FC – said that Kenny’s passion for his club and home town has undoubtedly led to the people of Larne falling back in love with their local team.
“In 2018, as little as only 50 Larne FC fans turned up to watch home games. This year, prior to COVID-19, the average gate at Inver Park was around 1,500. Hundreds of local children are enjoying the Club’s youth academy, the buzz around the stadium is palpable and Larne FC is fast becoming the envy of other clubs in Northern Ireland.
“But his vision for the Club extends far beyond matchday to a much broader and more impactful nurturing of local talent, which he believes to be in abundance in Larne. His refreshing approach will see the Club launch an innovative new strategy to expand the knowledge and skills of local young players to include health and wellbeing, diet and nutrition and strength and conditioning.
“We have every reason to be proud of Kenny Bruce, who can only be described as a ‘through and through Larne man’ and a most fitting recipient of this honour.”
Commenting on his MBE, Kenny Bruce said: “I was completely blown away when I received notification that I was to receive an MBE and I really am so humbled. Anything I have done for Larne FC and the surrounding community has simply been my way of giving back, because this town has given me so much in my lifetime.
“Alongside the unfaltering support I receive from my amazing family, I am grateful for the ongoing support of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. The Council’s Chief Executive, Anne Donaghy, together with its elected members and officers never fail to be tremendous source of encouragement and assistance.”