This Saturday 1,000 fans are set to attend the game against Bournemouth at the Riverside Stadium.

The Council has held talks with representatives of the football club, police and fire brigade to discuss how to ensure a small number of fans could safely attend the game.

Mayor Preston said: "This is a government-endorsed trial that senior officials at the football club are keen to do. The Council is working with the club and other authorities to make sure it's super-safe for fans to return in very small numbers.

"Between the fire service, police, Council and football club, there is a consensus that this can be done safely.

"Of course, we do require the cooperation from all those who attend the game, but the club has produced a detailed set of procedures that we believe means a very small crowd can be managed safely.

"Nobody takes the threat of Covid more seriously than I do, but I want Middlesbrough to show the rest of the country that we can put processes in place that set the standards for others to follow."

Those attending the game will be discouraged from using public transport or sharing cars and the club has published the guidelines that must be followed in and around the stadium on face coverings and one-way systems.

Fans must adhere to the single-seating arrangements in place for the test event, with a maximum of 1,000 supporters seated socially distanced within the Riverside Stadium's 10,000 capacity West Stand.

Supporters will be required to sanitise their hands before entering the stadium.

All concourses will be closed apart from when accessing seats and toilets, which will themselves be closely marshalled at all times.

Middlesbrough Council Chief Executive Tony Parkinson said: "We'd advise those travelling to the game to use a car wherever possible, as there will be plenty of free parking available at the stadium, though we do advise against sharing cars if possible.

"I know it's a tradition to go for supporters to enjoy a pre-match or post-match drink, but we would naturally advise everyone to act responsibly and follow Covid rules and guidelines."

Mayor Preston added: "I must emphasise that this is strictly on a trial basis but I do believe that, if we're sensible, we can get on with many aspects of normal life.

"The safety of individuals will always be our first priority, but we want to find a balance between limiting the spread of the virus and protecting people's jobs and livelihoods.

"I've said all along that going to the pub, the shop or a restaurant isn't intrinsically unsafe. It's all about how you behave when you're there, and Saturday's trail attendance of a small number of supporters is no different.

"Safety will always come first but it's also important that we do all we can to keep great institutions such as the football club up and running."