OPPONENTS of strict liability, of whom there are many in the boardrooms of Scottish football clubs, have repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of the legislation whenever there have been calls for its introduction over the years.

“Is there any evidence that it works?” has been the stock response to appeals for punishments to be dished out when supporters chant sectarian songs or misbehave at matches regardless of the warnings issued beforehand, initiatives in place or measures which are subsequently taken.

The fact that Celtic have repeatedly fallen foul of the European game’s governing body for the conduct of their fans in continental competition – the Parkhead club have been fined on 12 occasions in the past eight years for a variety of offences in Champions League and Europa League matches – would seem to suggest it has no discernible impact on what goes on in the stands.

But there is another salient point worth making here. Why would the morons who have belted out pro-IRA tunes, unfurled illicit banners, set off fireworks, fought with police and, in one instance, invaded the pitch and attempted to assault a visiting player, care less about Celtic being fined a grand total of around £170,000 in a decade?

After all, their last annual financial results showed their turnover had exceeded £100 million and they had in excess of £27 million in the bank? The penalties they have incurred have been trifling.

However, those who have called for the introduction of strict liability have long argued that if the repercussions of sectarianism are serious – if it will have a damaging effect on the team those responsible purport to love on the park – then it will make a difference.

Are they correct? Will closing stands, forcing important ties to be played behind closed doors, docking points and even ejecting persistent culprits from a tournament altogether bring about positive and long overdue change? Well, we may be about to find out.

Rangers sent out a strong message last week when they announced that UEFA had ordered them to shut off 3,000 seats in the second leg of their Europa League play-off against Legia Warsaw at Ibrox on Thursday as the result of “racist behaviour” in the qualifier against St Joseph’s last month.

A statement on their official website said: “If any individual supporter is unable to behave in a civilised manner then please stay away from Ibrox and our club. You are harming Rangers.”

The chances of the atmosphere being polluted with The Billy Boys or other banned anthems in their rematch with their Polish rivals – a game which promises to be, with a money-spinning place in the group stages up for grabs, a fantastic occasion - are minimal given what the serious consequences will be if it is.

As Steven Gerrard pointed out at his pre-match press conference at the Hummel Training Centre on Friday as he, rather wearingly, addressed this thorny topic once again, the next step is for a stand to be closed down or even the entire stadium.

If the more partisan element of the fanbase pays attention to the heartfelt appeals by Rangers chairman Dave King and manager Gerrard against Legia and then, should they progress, in the Europa League proper it will be proof that the threat of stronger sanctions can be a game changer.

Over to the SFA and SPFL.

The first Glasgow derby match of the new season will take place at Ibrox on Sunday and it is inconceivable that contest will pass off without any bigoted abuse being hurled in the direction of the players or vicinity of rival supporters. Why would anyone care? Celtic and Rangers will get off scot free regardless.

But it will be increasingly hard for those who run the game in this country to be so utterly dismissive of strict liability going forward if the UEFA punishment is seen to be successful. The appetite to stamp out sectarianism and disorder, not least among decent Celtic and Rangers fans, is growing by the day. The climate has changed. It is 2019 for goodness sake. All this garbage about Fenian b******* and the IRA should have consigned to history a long time ago.

Taking disciplinary action against clubs for their supporters’ misdemeanours would, of course, be a minefield, legal and otherwise. It is far easier for UEFA to sit in their headquarters in Nyon over in Switzerland and administer justice than it would be for the SFA and SPFL to do the same from Hampden in Mount Florida.

There is invariably an outcry that rumbles on for weeks, months, years even, when a player is cited retrospectively by the compliance officer and then suspended. Aye, but what about . . . ? Who exactly is going to make the call on what should happen to Celtic if the Ibrox Disaster Song is given an airing or Rangers if the Pope and the Vatican get a mention?

But more must be done and can be done than is currently the case. The SFA hierarchy were bitterly disappointed when their members clubs overwhelmingly rejected a move to bring in strict liability back in 2013. The very real prospect of Holyrood intervening and taking matters into their own hands should be enough incentive for them to reconsider it or, at the very least, take a far more proactive stance than they do at the moment.