SCOTLAND’S football clubs are directly to blame for the alarming upsurge in crowd trouble at matches this season – for failing to accept responsibility for the escalating problem.

And they must act decisively now and invest more heavily in stamping out disorder - or run the risk of decent supporters being driven out of grounds by hooligans and irrevocable long-term damage being done to our national game.

Those were the stark warnings from David Hamilton, the vice chair of the Scottish Police Federation, last night following further unrest this weekend.

James Tavernier, the Rangers captain, was accosted by a Hibernian supporter as he went to retrieve the ball from the side of the pitch in a Ladbrokes Premiership match at Easter Road on Friday night.

That horrifying incident came just six days after Celtic winger Scott Sinclair was nearly struck by a glass bottle at a William Hill Scottish Cup match at the same stadium.

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Hamilton, whose organisation represents over 17,000 police officers, believes the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour of Football Act at Holyrood last year has resulted in a significant deterioration in behaviour.

However, he also feels that SPFL clubs have allowed the situation to reach crisis point by not ploughing more money into preventative measures - and warned that politicians could once again intervene unless they take immediate action.

“This particular surge correlates with the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act,” he said. “I think people have been emboldened to behave in ways that are unacceptable.

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“The legislation was well-intended, but difficult to enforce. But some people took the repeal of the act to mean they can behave how they want at sports stadia. And the fact is they can’t.

“But my take on it, and our organisation’s take on it, is that this is a football club problem. We really need to see the clubs standing up and dealing with this. If the clubs had dealt with this at the outset then we wouldn’t have had this legislation let alone anything else that has happened since.

“People need to look at this and say: ‘This is our problem. How do we fix it?’ The introduction of HD CCTV at Hibs is to be welcomed. But why on earth did they not do that five years ago?

“What price is there on safety? What price is there on conduct? The game is ruining itself. It is ruining it for families. Families are turning their backs on it. It is short-sighted not to invest in this and deal with it as a football problem.”

Hamilton added: “If pubs and nightclubs allowed their clientele to behave the way football clubs do then they would be closed down until they got their act together. It is at the stage now where we need to say: ‘You need to get this sorted out because it is absolutely outrageous’.

“Why do you think that people should be able to behave like animals and indulge in criminal behaviour in a football environment and think it is okay? It is not okay?

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“There needs to be a much stronger line on it. The clubs need to take a financial hit on it, but, I’m sorry, I don’t think there’s a price you can put on decency in society.

“There are a multitude of ways that clubs can get better at this and take it forward. There doesn’t seem to be a willingness to actually do that. The reality is if they don’t do it somebody is going to intervene and legislate. Words are cheap. Let’s have some actions from the clubs.”

Hamilton was pleased to see the outcry over the attack on Tavernier and expressed hope that hooligans would be dealt with severely so that a strong message is sent out to troublemakers.

"The outrage over the events this weekend is welcome because it has got to be highlighted that this is unacceptable," he said.

"They need to be getting heavily penalised. People have to think: ‘I’m not doing that, look at what happened to him’. They have to be shamed into it.

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"This cannot become the normality. What is it that stops somebody who knows they are going to be arrested going onto the pitch? It is thinking they can get away with it. It is the acceptability that that kind of behaviour is somehow tolerated. We need to say: ‘This is not acceptable, we are not having this’.

"The clubs need to say: ‘No, we aren’t standing for this’. It is frustrating when you see them sitting back and not taking it on. As I said, it is going to damage the game.

"The clubs need to say: ‘No, we aren’t standing for this’. It is frustrating when you see them sitting back and not taking it on. As I said, it is going to damage the game.

"The focus with the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act was too much on fan behaviour at, quite frankly, Old Firm matches. That is what it all came down to. They have thrown out the baby and the bathwater."

Hamilton believes unless these incidents are stamped out then ordinary football fans will choose to stay away from games in future.

“I speak to colleagues now who say they would never dream of taking their families to football matches when they hear what is going on at them," he said. "It is not acceptable. We need to set a standard and then live to that standard.

“I used to support a west coast club. But when I went to away games I was sickened by the fans’ behaviour.

"I would never dream of taking my kids to a football match. Not until the clubs get their act sorted out.”

The SPFL were contacted for a response.