A Scottish football organisation has been accused of an “abject lack of leadership” after snubbing Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf’s call to publish sectarianism data at matches.

The board of the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), which runs the top four divisions, met last month after Yousaf's public statement, but dodged making a decision.

Dave Scott, director of the anti-sectarianism charity Nil By Mouth, said: “Scottish football always feels it’s a law unto itself.”

The row can be traced to 2017 when academic Dr Duncan Morrow, in a report to the SNP Government, recommended a monitoring system for sectarian behaviour at football games.

In response, the football authorities started to collate figures on “unacceptable conduct”, which includes sectarianism, from the beginning of the 2017/18 season.

Baseline information was provided by the SPFL to the Government and Police Scotland in confidence, which resulted in Yousaf claiming he was unable to breach this agreement.

Nil By Mouth requested the figures from the Government and resorted to appealing to the Scottish Information Commissioner for the data to be released.

In June, at the height of the row, Yousaf claimed that his hands were tied, but urged action by the SPFL.

“Our clear and consistent preference has been for the data to be published. Therefore, I have spoken to SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster today to reiterate that point once again, and I will follow it up in writing. He and the SPFL have committed to discuss the matter at the next board meeting.”

Holyrood’s Justice committee stepped up the pressure on the SPFL by calling on the information to be published and urging “transparency”.

It is understood the SPFL board met in August and made no decision. A source said the issue remains under discussion.

However, this stance has angered critics who believe that publication is a no-brainer.

Scott added: “How depressingly predictable this is. The board has some new faces but it’s the same old excuses. The reality is the SPFL won’t publish this information unless the information commissioner approves our appeal for it to be released by the Government.

“Compare the direct action Uefa have taken recently where events have been reported, cases fully investigated and sanctions imposed in a matter of weeks with this pantomime, and you start to realise why Scottish football is in the doldrums both on and off the pitch – an abject lack of leadership.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said: "The Justice Secretary and the Justice Committee have backed my demand to make this data public in the interests of tackling sectarianism in Scotland, but journalists and campaigners are still coming up against a brick wall.

"Neither ministers nor the SPFL come out of this saga well. It would be a simple decision for the SPFL board to drop the gagging order and let the public know what data they hold on sectarian incidents. Likewise ministers should never have settled for such a cloak and dagger arrangement in the first place.

"At present, it is hard to take SPFL commitments to tackle sectarianism seriously. The government needs to tear up this dodgy agreement and commit to publishing past and present data in full.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our strong preference has always been that SPFL should make the data publicly available – and we have made that point consistently to them.”

Football clubs have been accused for years of failing to take tough action against sectarian abuse aimed at players, managers and fans.

Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, blasted some Celtic fans after they called him a “sad Orange b******” during a Scottish Cup semi-final.

Steve Clarke, the former Kilmarnock manager who is now Scotland’s national coach, said chants of “sad Fenian b******” at him by Rangers fans at Ibrox were reminiscent of the "Dark Ages”.