Council chiefs in Glasgow have been condemned for handing £100,000 of public money to Rangers and Celtic for “outreach work” - despite facing cuts of £130million.
The two richest football clubs in Scotland were handed a combined £100,000 for their Old Firm Alliance programme which “reaches out” to school children in the city.
But the move has prompted angry calls for the wealthy clubs to self-fund the scheme, with one campaign group accusing the Old Firm of “picking and choosing the issues it has a conscience on” at taxpayers’ expense.
A move by the council’s SNP group to divert the money to financial and legal advice centres in areas of deprivation was overruled by the council’s Labour administration.
Susan Aitken, SNP group leader at Glasgow council, said the party had recommended grants go elsewhere because the clubs were “considerably better placed than others to fund their own grassroots activities”.
She added: “The Celtic and Rangers charitable foundations between them had an income of over £2 million last year.
“Do they really need to receive £50,000 a year from public funds when, for example, money and legal advice centres in communities like Castlemilk, Easterhouse and Possil are being hit with significant cuts to their council grant funding?”
Both clubs have received millions from Glasgow City Council in the last decade for initiatives but this has been cut in recent years following successive rounds of local authority cuts.
The grants have been reduced in the past year from an annual £39,200 each to £25,000.
The row comes just six weeks after it emerged hard-up Glasgow City Council faces making £130million of cuts to public services and jobs over the next two years.
The Old Firm Alliance was established in 2005 and works mostly with youngsters of primary school age in Glasgow using a combination of free football and workshops on health, sectarianism, diversity and equality.
But last year the Scottish Government’s expert group on sectarianism recommended football clubs need to step up to the plate and fund grassroots work themselves.
Dave Scott, campaign director of anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth, said: “Both clubs clearly have a role in tackling this problem but I’m really not sure it should be at the taxpayers’ expense.
“The game cannot be allowed to pick and choose the issues it has a conscience on and seek handouts for work in some areas whilst burying its head in the sand on issues, such as sectarianism, where it is a big contributor to the problem.”
A council spokesman insisted money was made to charitable foundations to “support valuable projects they deliver for younger people” rather than the clubs themselves.
A Rangers spokeswoman said: “We are uniquely placed to help deliver powerful benefits for the people of Glasgow and the local community.”
Celtic were unavailable for comment.