MINISTERS are facing calls to ban taxpayer funding for Scottish football unless the sport's big powers declare war on sectarianism.

The demand came as it was revealed that the game's governing bodies and top flight clubs benefit from millions of pounds of taxpayers' cash.

Ministers should “seriously consider withholding public money” from the clubs and governing bodies, the head of anti-sectarianism charity Nil By Mouth, Dave Scott, said.

"Scottish football has an utterly dismal record on sectarianism," he said.

"There is a real opportunity here to use the massive public investment in the game as leverage to force governing bodies and clubs to get their house in order and there is a growing case for a moratorium on public funding into football until this happens."

The demand came as Celtic face Rangers in a home clash today that could see the Hoops clinch the Scottish Premiership title.

Both Old Firm clubs, as well as Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian, failed to respond to Sunday Herald requests for comment about Nil By Mouth's demand.

Any ban would be targeted at the professional game, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) and Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL).

Figures obtained by Nil By Mouth show that the SFA and SPFL received over £14 million of public funding between 2011 and 2017.

Nearly £6.7m from Scottish Government coffers went to the SFA between March 2011 and June 2017, and the SFA also received almost £5.2m from Sportscotland –the national agency for sport – between April 2013 and March 2017. The SFA said the cash was used to help promote the game.

The SPFL received £2.7m in Scottish Government funding between April 2011 and March 2013, including Scottish Government sponsorship of the Scottish League Cup between 2011 and 2013.

The Scottish Government also paid £25m to fund the Oriam national sports performance centre in Edinburgh, which is described as "the performance home for the SFA, with all national teams, coach education, referee development and the regional office being based here".

Scottish Premiership giants Hearts and Hibs also regularly train at the site.

However, Nil By Mouth said Scottish football should be "held to the same level of standards, accountability and transparency as other publicly funded bodies”.

Scott said: "In football money talks, that’s why Scottish clubs will comply with ‘strict liability’ [which places more focus on punishing clubs for bad behaviour rather than fans] for lucrative European ties, yet do nothing domestically as they know they won’t be deducted a point or a pound for sectarianism within their grounds by the SPFL or SFA."

Nil By Mouth says a pre-condition for state funding should be the adoption of recommendations made by an anti-sectarian advisory group in 2015, led by Professor Duncan Morrow, which backed a series of measures including strict liability.

Scott said: "This culture of cowardice and cover up has been allowed to fester too long in the corridors of Hampden.

"That’s why it’s time for politicians of all parties to hold the SFA and SPFL’s feet to the fire and seriously consider withholding public money from them until they put the recommendations made by Prof Morrow into place."

The intervention by Nil By Mouth came after SNP MSP James Dornan earlier this month called for government funding to be cut for organisations failing to adequately tackle sectarianism in Scottish society.

Dornan said he supported Nil By Mouth’s demands “generally”. However, he said he wanted to see the full details of its proposal before committing to backing a moratorium on public funding for football clubs.

In response, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government provides funding via Sportscotland to the Scottish FA for participation, diversity and women and girls’ football and to the SPFL Trust to deliver the Football Fans In Training programme."

An SFA spokesman said: "The investment is used to grow community engagement, support young people, increase levels of physical activity and broaden participation."

An SPFL spokesman added: “The SPFL is fully committed to working towards preventing and, where present, eliminating incidents of unacceptable conduct within our stadia, and has already taken significant steps to address the issue."