MANAGEMENT at Hampden Park were last night accused of squandering almost £1million on a pitch that is not fit for purpose by a leading turf expert as the playing surface is relaid for the fifth time in seven years ahead of the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals.

Work on the National Stadium’s now-infamous park got underway less than two hours after Sunday’s Petrofac Training Cup final in an attempt to rectify the poor underfoot conditions that have been evident over the last month.

Despite being returfed just a month ago, the pitch has already received severe criticism from managers and players, including Celtic and Scotland captain Scott Brown and Rangers manager Mark Warburton, after staging just six fixtures.

Unlike many top stadia around the United Kingdom and abroad that have switched to reinforced or ‘hybrid’ pitches, 100 per cent natural grass has been used at Hampden. While the current work is being carried out without a fee, the cost for the last refit was reported to be £200,000.

Jason Booth, the general manager of the Institute of Groundsmanship, also acts as a pitch advisor for the Football Association in England and has previously been head groundsman at Headingley rugby and cricket ground.

He has voiced concerns over a perceived lack of understanding and investment by Hampden Park Ltd on the infrastructure around the pitch following Warburton’s suggestion that spending more money on a solid surface at the beginning would have been a wiser strategy.

“It’s obvious that that business wants to get a certain amount of use out of that pitch,” said Booth. “It’s obvious that, over the last two to three years, that pitch hasn’t been able to deliver that amount of use.

“You would like to think, as a business and an organisation, you are looking at options to get that use out of it. A reinforced pitch is the obvious way to look and you would like to think they are looking at options for the long-term.

“From what I’m being told they are using at the minute, it’s not quite working.

“It is unbelievable is that you are talking about Hampden having that number of returfs. They have done nearly a million pounds in just a few years.

“If you’ve got a million pounds in cash, would you let anybody that is not fully qualified with the right tools look after your money?

“Time after time after time, we have groundsmen that clubs aren’t investing in to develop them so they can retain the multi-million pound facility they are responsible for. They are not given the right tools either. It’s not: ‘There’s £1m, there’s your pitch’, but you might not have the right mowers, materials, it’s not fertilised enough or it’s not renovated at the end of the season. It’s all one package.

“You can give Queen’s Park Cristiano Ronaldo, but, if he hasn’t got the players around him that can play with him, they’re not going to win the league.”

Booth harbours clear concerns over the pitch’s ability to knit together in time for this weekend’s matches between Hibernian and Dundee United on Saturday and Rangers and Celtic the following day.

“In an ideal world you want to leave it for three to four weeks, or maybe longer,” he said.

“The question we all have to ask is: ‘Is it natural turf or reinforced?’ If it is the latter, the playability is going to go up. If not, you have the potential to have a few issues.

“Going on the quality of turf, you are going to have damage. It’s just how much. If the turf is not of the standard that is required for that level of football, you are going to have issues with ball roll and playability.

“They put a lot of water on the pitch at top level football for the ball to skid along at a fast pace. If the quality of the turf is anything below substandard, that water starts to affect players footing as it stays on the surface. It becomes very slippery.”

Booth is an advocate of hybrid pitches and, only last month, visited BT Murrayfield, where the Scottish Rugby Union have recently put down a £1.2m Desso Grassmaster system.

He also travelled to Ibrox and Murray Park as a guest of David Roxburgh, the Rangers groundsman, to see their facilities. Booth met Warburton and discussed his passion for a perfect playing surface, a fact underlined in February when he confessed he’d happily sacrifice £1m from his player budget for the cause.

“I spoke to Mark probably three weeks ago about the need for quality at their training ground,” said Booth.

“He made the comment ‘I’d rather spend £1m on a pitch than a player’ and that’s the sort of sentiment he echoed to me to give Rangers the facility to show their skills to the maximum.

“It helps when you have coaches like Mark who understand playing surfaces and the importance of them. We need more Mark Warburton’s in the industry as far as I’m concerned.”