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Why NI millionaire is out to take Larne right to the top

 

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Pitching in: Multi-millionaire businessman Kenny Bruce is thought to be planning to inject £500k into Larne to purchase and upgrade Inver Park and bring in new players in a bid to gain promotion and fight for the top honours

Pitching in: Multi-millionaire businessman Kenny Bruce is thought to be planning to inject £500k into Larne to purchase and upgrade Inver Park and bring in new players in a bid to gain promotion and fight for the top honours

Kenny Bruce

Kenny Bruce

Pitching in: Multi-millionaire businessman Kenny Bruce is thought to be planning to inject £500k into Larne to purchase and upgrade Inver Park and bring in new players in a bid to gain promotion and fight for the top honours

A multi-millionaire businessman from Northern Ireland, willing to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in Larne Football Club, has spoken for the first time about why he is so keen to do it, how the possibility arose and his dream to make the Inver Park outfit one of the most successful sides in the country.

Kenny Bruce, who comes from Larne, made his fortune after founding online property market company Purplebricks with his brother Michael five years ago. He is now determined to give something back to the club he supported as a boy and to the town he grew up in.

Larne, whose best years came in the 1980s when Paul Malone was manager, are currently in the Bluefin Sport Championship and last Saturday were unable to use their home ground to play their opening game of the season against Portadown due to the lack of a safety certificate for Inver Park.

Like many clubs in Northern Ireland over the past decade, they have found it tough going financially, and relationships have become strained between supporters, board members and past players. There has even been talk of takeovers.

In an exclusive interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Bruce, currently in discussions with the club, pointed out that everyone connected with Larne had to come together for his vision to become a reality.

Bruce wants to work with the existing board, manager Tiernan Lynch and his long-time friend and respected businessman Gareth Clements to move the Antrim outfit to the next level, plus utilise the expertise of former Larne heroes Sammy Smith and Graham McConnell, who brought him to the table in the first place.

With suggestions that he would put £500,000 into a proposed purchase and renovation of Inver Park and the buying of new players, Bruce insisted he would invest 'all the funds needed' to see the club win promotion to the Premiership and challenge for the biggest trophies in local football.

Speaking from Los Angeles, where he is temporarily based for business, Bruce said: "I am very much in love with Larne, it's the place where I grew up. I played schoolboys football at Inver Park and grew up watching Larne as a fan.

"My grandparents and mother were born and bred there and I have strong connections with lots of family and friends in the town. I feel working with the football club would be a great opportunity to give something back.

"I believe that with investment from myself and working alongside the current board, Tiernan and Gareth, the football club could thrive which could have a positive knock-on effect on the economic climate within the town.

"I wanted Gareth Clements alongside me from the start, he is someone I have known for a long time and have a great deal of respect for, as do the existing board members. He is a football man who is very successful within the business community of Northern Ireland and is someone that I admire greatly.

"If Gareth is to get involved he will work tirelessly to lead the delivery of the vision and plan, but I am clear in the knowledge that we do not intend or expect it to disrupt his career.

"For me to get involved it has to be on the basis of a proper, detailed plan that is principled with values and be right for the town, club and supporters. I'm working hard to get to that stage with the current board and all involved.

"This came about after I was approached by Graham McConnell and Sammy Smith about whether I would be interested in trying to help Larne FC by investing.

"Sammy and Graham were the people who brought me to the table, and the reality is that Graham pursued me for a few weeks. In a totally selfless way, Sammy and Graham were the people who sparked my interest and deserve credit for that.

"I'm very keen to work with the existing board, who have shown a great deal of enthusiasm about how we can work together, and I feel if everyone pulls in the same direction with the club in their heart we could have the start of something special.

"I'm not interested in any hostile takeover. Nor is Gareth. We want to work with everyone for the betterment of the football club and the town and I think there is great potential.

"I want to work with the existing board and listen to people like Graham and Sammy for the good of Larne. I don't want to see their energy and passion outside Inver Park. I want it on the sidelines supporting the club to be successful.

"The town is a huge football town and for many years it has suffered. That's not down to the existing board. Running any business is very tough and you encounter lots of difficulties along the way and Larne FC have had their fair share over the years.

"I'm serious about my intentions. It is a personal investment and nothing to do with my business. It won't detract me from my day to day work which I'm very busy doing.

"Whatever money I invest would be a gift because the likelihood of getting a return from a football club would be highly unrealistic, so it's not an investment I plan to gain from.

"There is no issue with the investment. If I get involved the club will have all the funds it needs to fulfil all our aspirations. We just have to unite and get the deal done.

"We have the appetite, investment, one of the most promising young coaches around in Tiernan Lynch and the potential infrastructure.

"I want Larne to be a successful club. I'm not just talking about getting promoted to the Premier League, I want us challenging for honours.

"That would be a fairytale for everybody. Unless everyone is willing to work together, though, it won't happen. This is a wonderful opportunity for Larne Football Club and Larne as a town."

Belfast Telegraph