Keane effect set to boost Suffolk economy

ROY Keane's appointment as Ipswich Town boss could provide a multi-million pound boost to the Suffolk economy, it emerged today.

Josh Warwick

PREPARE for the Irish invasion of Ipswich!

That was the prediction today as tourism chiefs and airport bosses got ready to welcome up to 2,000 football fans from the Emerald Isle - thanks to the Roy Keane effect.

During the Irishman's reign as manager at Sunderland, scores of his countrymen regularly flew to the north east for home games, spending their money on hotel accommodation, food and drink, and shopping.

Now, it is hoped that the Keane appeal will work for Ipswich, too - and could provide a multi-million pound boost to the local economy.

It comes as the CBI announced that the first signs that the recession was coming to an end are becoming apparent with a slow recovery forecast for this time next year.

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And there are also signs that the first time buyers market in Ipswich is beginning to recover.

Alex Paul, tourism manager at Choose Suffolk, said: “The profile we are getting from Roy Keane's appointment is very positive and is very good for the county.

“It is important we make maximum benefit of it.

“When Sunderland played at home during Roy Keane's spell as manager, they had a lot of Irish fans travelling to watch home games. That meant that all the hotels were full and provided a real boost to the city.

“And that filters through to all the local businesses - the pubs, restaurants and shops.”

If Keane can manage to haul the Blues into the Premier League - he managed the same feat in his first season at Sunderland - Mr Paul reckons Ipswich and Suffolk's businesses will be further lifted.

“In the eventuality of promotion there's a real boost to the local economy - and it's thanks to the Premier League.”

Mark Davison, of Stansted owner BAA, said the airport could cater for the expected army of fans from Ireland looking to visit Portman Road for home games.

He said: “We are ready.

“Dublin is already the top destination in and out of Stansted. There are five flights at the moment but it will go up to eight in the peak season.”

He said planes also flew to Cork, Ireland West Airport Knock, Kerry and Shannon.

He added: “They could not be better placed. And they can get themselves a bargain - flights cost anything from a penny up to only �30 or �40.”