Support from a women's group for a controversial law to tackle sectarianism and online abuse is "not legitimised" by any statistics surrounding its use, academics have told MSPs.

Lecturers questioned claims the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act offered extra protection to women and minority groups such as LGBTI and disabled people during an appearance at Holyrood's Justice Committee.

The committee is considering whether the legislation should be repealed, and has taken evidence from a broad range of organisations, including the Scottish Women's Convention (SWC).

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The SWC opposes a bid by Labour's James Kelly to repeal the two-part law, aimed at tackling both sectarianism at football - including offensive chants and songs - and cracking down on violent online abuse.

The organisation argued women "have felt increasingly terrified and scared about particularly public transport and public places like pubs when football games are on", adding the Act "fills a gap in the legislative agenda which is well meaning in its scope to protect communities throughout the country".

However this view was questioned by Dr Stuart Waiton of Abertay University and Dr John Kelly of Edinburgh University, who both back the repeal of the Act.

Dr Waiton, a sociology lecturer, said their view was not backed up by statistics, and was "grotesquely patronising to football fans".

He told MSPs: "You don't question that actually perhaps their fear is not legitimised. It is certainly not legitimised by any of the statistics that I've seen in terms of attacks on gay people, black people, women at football games.

"But you take that fear as good coin."

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He added: "There is a presumption that football fans are bigots, racists, sexists, homophobes and don't like disabled people and so on.

"Then we get these groups (such as SWC), represented by tiny numbers of people, who come forward and say 'I find this a problem'.

"I think this is grotesquely patronising to football fans."

Dr Kelly said he agreed the rights of women and other groups should be protected, but questioned the evidence of the legislation's role in doing so.

"I am not sure why this Bill is giving this women's group comfort... or encouraging them to feel safe and secure at football," he said.