THERE are few subjects in Scottish football that generate as many questions, headlines and talking points as the state of the pitches.

Ultimately, the discussion and the debate is pointless. And that will be the case until the SPFL changes the rules on plastic parks and enforces guidelines over the standard of surfaces in our game.

The issue has come to the fore, once again, after remarks from Michael Beale and a retort from Gus MacPherson regarding the underfoot conditions that Rangers and St Johnstone had to play on at McDiarmid Park last month. To say the Scottish Cup clash wasn't exactly a classic of the genre is putting it mildly.

In his post-match media interview, Beale made a throwaway statement about how his side 'didn’t need three games in six days on two cow fields'. It was the end of a week that had seen Rangers and Aberdeen slug it out on the sub-standard surface at Hampden and Beale's side then emerge victorious on a Rugby Park pitch that has been at the centre of so many rows and rumbles.

It wasn't exactly a barrage of comment and criticism from the Rangers manager. A few minutes later, captain James Tavernier had his say and was measured in his assessment of a park that hindered both teams and did nothing to add to the spectacle of a largely forgettable fixture.

Tavernier admitted that Rangers expected the conditions to be as poor as they were after their visit to Perth earlier in the campaign and he highlighted the efforts of Ross County and Motherwell - both of whom have 'always got really good pitches to play on' - as standard bearers for some of the provincial clubs in the Premiership.

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His call for all pitches to be grass will fall on deaf ears but few could surely argue with his assessment that action had to be taken to improve Scottish football and the perception of our game.

The McDiarmid Park surface hasn't been good enough for some time and the Saints will take ownership of the issue. For an established and successful top flight club, the pitch is far from acceptable and boss Callum Davidson would surely like his side to be playing on green grass at home rather than the sanded and rutted surface they are forced to put up with every other week.

MacPherson, the Head of Football Operations in Perth, agreed that standards had slipped and that action must be taken. He took umbrage at the language used by Beale but couldn't argue with the message as the Saints board seek to remedy a problem that they will just need to deal with between now and the end of the campaign.

“There was a lot of criticism from the Rangers side after the game here," MacPherson said as he revealed St Johnstone haven't had a maintenance programme for 'a number of years' and insisted that there was nobody to blame amid weather factors. “Personally, I thought that was very unprofessional - and I did remark on that the following week when we played them at Ibrox.

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“It’s impossible to improve it at this time of the year. It’s a basic fact that there is no growth from about November to March.

“You might see a slight difference after that, but it won’t be until the summer that you see a proper improvement. The pitch is what it is."

At clubs where budgets are tight, managers will want almost every penny to be put on the park in terms of wages or fees. But that cannot come at the expense of investing money on the pitch, literally, and there is a duty of care to players and a responsibility to the game to ensure surfaces are befitting the level.

Under SPFL Rule H11, each club must 'ensure that the field of play at its Registered Ground and at any other ground at which it is the Home Club for a League Match or Play-Off Match is smooth and in good condition and repair' and equipped with a drainage system so that it cannot become unplayable due to flooding.

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The next entry in the guidelines is interesting. Rule H12 states: 'The Board may, without prejudice to any sanction that might be imposed on a Club for failure to comply with Rule H11, require the Club concerned to take such steps within such time and on such conditions as the Board shall specify, if the Board is not satisfied that the Club concerned is complying or has complied in all respects with Rule H11.'

It is stated in black and white that synthetic surfaces must adhere to the 'FIFA Quality Pro' standard and there are guidelines for all parks when it comes to warm-up routines, goalmouths and watering schedules. It raises questions, then, over how bad a park would have to be before the League sought clarification from a club, never mind took action against them?

St Johnstone are not the first club to have these difficulties and they will not be the last. There are mitigations in terms of usage and budgets that can, unlike the situation at Hampden for the Viaplay Cup semi-finals, be taken into account.

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But if the remedial work over the summer is not successful then questions will have to be asked of the Saints hierarchy. That applies across the board and to every club and St Johnstone should not be singled out in the bigger picture just because it is they are who are in the spotlight right now.

The game here should be held to as high a standard as possible. If some of those within it believe that plastic pitches and shoddy surfaces pass as fit for purpose then the rest, surely the majority, will just need to live with the current state of affairs.

Pitch talk is one of the staple diets of Scottish football. And there will be enough controversy and quarrels for a herd of cows to chew over for some time to come.