THE prospect of Holyrood once again intervening in Scottish football’s ongoing battle against crowd disorder and sectarianism and possibly even, gulp, introducing legislation is concerning for both clubs and their supporters, including those who are capable of behaving themselves at matches.

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act, which was mercifully repealed last year, was hardly a resounding success story was it?

That badly-worded and flawed law – which even Liberty, a civil liberties organisation, roundly condemned for being too great an intrusion into freedom of expression – underlined that the football authorities, not our elected representatives, are best running football for all their faults.

But could intervention from Scottish government be what is needed to finally rid the game in this country of the bigotry which has blighted it for decades and shows no sign, despite the best efforts of Celtic and Rangers and scores of other well-intentioned people over the years, of abating any time soon?

Humza Yousaf, the Justice Secretary, SNP MSP and Celtic fan, this week warned that the government will get involved if he feels that clubs are failing to properly address an issue he described as a “vile cancer” themselves as he announced an additional £530,000 of funding for anti-sectarian organisations.

“My challenge to the football clubs and others is: ‘Show me how you’re going to act. Tell me how you’re going to root this out’,” said Yousaf. “If you don’t then we reserve the right to act.

“I’ll look at legislation we currently have, like licensing laws for example. I’ll look at potential solutions, like strict liability for example. We will not rule them out and we will not take them off the table. All the options remain very firmly on the table.”

Opponents of strict liability – where clubs face a range of punishments, including, in the worst cases, points deductions, if their followers misbehave regardless of the preventative measures they have taken - argue that it has failed to have any discernible impact where it has been used. The repeated fines that Celtic have been hit with by UEFA have certainly not done anything to deter the troublemakers.

But another measure under examination is to give councils greater licensing powers and the ability to close grounds. Every stadium with a capacity of more than 10,000 is required to hold a safety licence and parliament could examine the awarding of them in greater detail. A model that is used in England – where the Sports Ground Safety Authority holds great sway – is being looked at.

There was unquestionably an alarming rise in the incidents of crowd disorder last season. The reputation of Scottish football took a battering as missiles were thrown at match officials, players and managers, fireworks and smoke cannisters were hurled onto the playing surface and individuals were subjected to chants of “sad Orange b******” and “sad Fenian b******” in high-profile matches which, in some cases, were being broadcast live on television.

It is unfair to say that growing unrest is being taken lightly by clubs and nothing is being done. Both Hearts and Hibernian have acted decisively and quickly. Spectators attending games at Easter Road towards the end of last season had to pass by sniffer dogs. Anybody concealing pyrotechnics had no chance of getting past them. Their Tynecastle rivals, meanwhile, closed a section of their Wheatfield Road Stand in their final two games.

In the past, Celtic have done much the same. After a league game against Motherwell at Fir Park back in 2013 in which £10,000 worth of damage was caused to their opponents’ stadium and flares set off, they suspended 128 of their fans from their games, both home and away.

In addition, they temporarily relocated 250 supporters who had season tickets for Section 111 of Parkhead, the area which houses the ultra group, The Green Brigade.

They also shut the safe-standing section for two games in 2017 for “serious incidents of unsafe behaviour” – fireworks which were set off under banners in an inadvisable tribute to the Lisbon Lions in a league game against Hearts as well as an illicit banner in a Champions League qualifier with Linfield.

Rangers, too, wasted no time in identifying and handing an indefinite ban to the moron who made monkey gestures at Scott Sinclair during at game against Celtic at Ibrox two years ago.

But what exactly do these clubs do, as is often the case, when thousands of supporters sing sectarian songs en masse? How can any business possibly ban so many of its customers and hope to remain solvent? If they close a section of their stadium for bigoted chanting for one game what do they do if it happens again? A precedent, after all, has been set.

Perhaps the answer lies in the responsibility being taken out of their hands. If supporters know that they are going to be unable to see their team play, if they understand that their will be repercussions for the club they love, then maybe, just maybe, they might just think twice about belting out The Billy Boys or other songs of the same ilk.

Celtic may have been fined repeatedly by European football’s governing body for a string of offences. But for a club with a turnover that exceeded £100 million in the last financial year the penalties have been trifling.

Possibly if the consequences of their actions were more serious they would conduct themselves differently. It is at least worth finding out. There are too many in Scottish football who feel that sectarianism is harmless and acceptable.