EVEN in a country that is used to sectarianism in football, the picture that the Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr painted this week of the disorder at matches is shocking. A flare thrown at a police horse. Officers pulled from their horses. Officers spat at and attacked. And the most worrying fact of all? The disorder appears to be getting worse.

Mr Kerr was speaking about the issue at a board meeting of the Scottish Police Authority and said he was surprised at the level of trouble on display at some matches. He also said he was concerned there had been a rise in disorder in the last 12 months and said clubs, fans, the police and councils all needed to look at what could be done differently.

The most high-profile attempt to change the behaviour of fans was the 2012 Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, but it was obvious from the start that the law lacked clarity and that there was a lack of consistency about what was, or was not, offensive behaviour. Quite simply, the law was confusing and unclear for the police, lawyers and the fans themselves and eventually, in the face of the criticism and confusion, it was abolished.

The concern now, however, is that the abolition has not been followed by a coherent alternative to tackling sectarianism. It must also be a worry that the abolition may have emboldened people to behave badly. Whatever the explanation, the apparent rise in disorder is a reminder that decisive action still needs to be taken.

It may be the only way forward from here is to introduce a strict liability rule which dictates that if fans misbehave, the club can be held responsible. Clubs have been resistant to the idea but, equally, they have failed to come up with their own plan to tackle sectarianism. If the football authorities want to avoid the change being introduced, they can still make suggestions of their own. But as the disorder at games apparently gets worse, it may be hard to avoid the conclusion that the strict liability rule is now the only option.