Saturday, April 20, 2013 - 11:06 AM

NEW West Perth Football Club CEO David Crute is enjoying the fact that he has stepped into the role with the league side unbeaten at present, but his focus extends far beyond on the field.

In the bigger picture he is excited by the future of the Falcons with the Arena Joondalup redevelopment and continued expansion into Joondalup and Wanneroo.

Crute arrives at West Perth replacing the ever-popular, productive and successful CEO Gerry O'Dea with a strong football pedigree after coaching roles with Claremont in the WAFL as well as business development, community and sponsorship roles with both the WA Football Commission and Fremantle Dockers.

He now has been in the chair for his first home game that saw West Perth remain unbeaten last Saturday with a big win over Peel at Arena Joondalup.

He has no doubt that the team winning has helped him settle in a little easier, but wanted to emphasise that the support he has received from everyone associated with the club has been enormous.

"What made it easier is the team is coming off three wins. You can never be over confident because Peel has been on the improve and with the alignment with Fremantle were always going to be tough, but my first match day on Saturday saw us come away with five wins because I'm claiming little league and the 16s as well, so I’m happy with that!" Crute said.

"With the league side going so well, everyone around the club is really positive so that has made it easier. Certainly the support I have received from sponsors that I have met has been overwhelming.

"I did have one member of our cheer squad come up to me after the game welcoming me, but in no uncertain terms tell me that I have to look out if I don’t become a West Perth supporter. That was pretty funny, but he was genuine in welcoming me so that was great."

One aspect of the club to already impress Crute, and not just because they appointed him, has been his dealings with the Board of the club.

"I have already found the board very proactive in where they want to take the club. We have a lot of new Board members who are really enthusiastic, but led by a super passionate president and I don’t think anyone could deny that," he said.

"It's not only the Board's enthusiasm, it's their depth of knowledge in various fields like Richard Homsany in law and Bec Daniels in terms of promotions and marketing, and she is an ex-employee. Bec is a really good example of developing from within and growing your own talent, and to be honest that's something that I will take from my experience at Claremont.

Also helping him settle in seamlessly was the fact that the club's staff were able to keep things running smoothly during the turnover of CEOs.

"The other thing I have noticed is the commitment, dedication and competence of the staff. They have all been basically on their own since Gerry left and have just gone about their business. While I wasn’t surprised at that, it's still nice to know that they have that level of ability to be able to just get on with the job."

One thing that Crute wasn’t so sure about when coming into the job was the relationship between West Perth and VenuesWest, the managers of Arena Joondalup. However, he has found that it is actually a reasonable relationship and he is confident of making it even stronger.

"I have found out that the relationship we have with VenuesWest is not as fractured as I may have anticipated," Crute said.

"Perception from various WAFL clubs and perhaps even within the commission is that it has been a bit disjointed and unworkable at times, and yes there are areas that can be improved on, but having met some of the key people from VenuesWest I have been very impressed with their want to make sure the relationship works going forward."

Making the West Perth job all the more exciting and the club's future all the more prosperous is the redevelopment of Arena Joondalup that is soon to commence.

The $15 million project will give the West Perth Football Club a true home in their adopted city for the first time and Crute has no doubt that it sets up the club's future.

"For the WAFL to survive, good facilities are imperative for every club, so they all need to be doing their utmost to deliver those types of facilities not only for their players, but for their supporters, members and sponsors," he said.

"Claremont is redeveloping and Peel is setting the standard. Subiaco and East Perth have decent facilities so there are a few of us to go and hopefully we are next cab off the rank. It won't just be for the West Perth Football Club either. We want to see it develop as a true community facility so we can interact and engage with all sorts of different stakeholders in our district. It's going to be an exciting time.

"I have emphasised to the colts and senior playing group that my job is to provide the best possible environment for them. It's just a key plank for us going forward. We have 128 years of history and have now been in Joondalup for 20 years. To have our own club rooms is long overdue.

It will also give us more of a chance to display and embrace our history, and hopefully when the people who weren’t supportive of us moving to Joondalup see that, well… maybe they will come back to the club."

Crute sees that the opportunities to continue to grow the West Perth Football Club's presence in both the Joondalup and Wanneroo as one of the great challenges, but also perhaps one of the more exciting aspects of the job.

"I have known the last two CEO's well and each of them have done their utmost to progress the relationship with the wider community, but it takes time. We have been here 20 years now and that sense of belonging and relationship-building doesn’t happen overnight. If I had stepped in here nine or 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to progress it any further than anyone else," he said.

"I am really fortunate and one of the things that attracted me to the role is that we are right on the cusp of having the whole Joondalup and Wanneroo regions finally embrace us. The junior clubs already see us as the parent body who can provide a pathway for their kids to progress their football careers and of course we need to continue to nurture that relationship but it's the business community in both the Joondalup and Wanneroo areas that we really need to engage.

“Wanneroo is definitely an untapped resource. Not just the town, but also the commercial strip near Clarkson and Mindarie. It's unbelievable how it's grown out there! Peel Thunder is probably in a similar boat and I liken it to Geelong where it's a one club town and if we can become that for the Wanneroo and Joondalup area, then the sky's the limit in terms of how our club develops."

While Crute comes directly to West Perth from the Fremantle Football Club, he spent 12 years in various roles with the Activ Foundation and will be forever grateful to that organisation for giving him the chance to find his feet and develop his skills along the way.

"When I came out of uni I managed the recreation department of Activ Foundation for 10 years. Activ essentially provides services for people with intellectual disabilities and their families and that's where I cut my teeth," Crute said.

"I had a good-sized budget and learned how to manage that, manage staff and deal with a range of stakeholders from parents right through to government ministers. Following that I moved on to managing a business unit called Activ Property Care which manages large scale landscaping and garden maintenance contracts.

"I had a number of massive contracts around Perth and that's where I really developed my business acumen in terms of dealing with governments and contracts, and different industrial relations issues and sponsorship while also managing people, fleets of vehicles and equipment maintenance. I look back at my time with Activ and know that they really gave me my start and put me in a position of trust that only now I realise how fortunate I was."

Following his business grounding with the Activ Foundation, it was into football for Crute where not only did he gain coaching experience at Claremont, but he worked with the WA Football Commission before spending the last eight years with Fremantle as their Community Development Manager.

"That was probably my first real experience in dealing with high-level sponsorship agreements and contracts. I’ve always held the view that yes they gave us money, but I saw it more as a partnership.

"Not all sponsors want to do that of course, but I think most of them want to see some level of engagement. In my experience, the best sponsorships are the ones with business who truly engage in the activities they sponsor." 

He has no doubt that his experiences in football combined with the Activ Foundation will hold him in good stead for everything that being a WAFL club CEO now entails.

Crute is now looking forward to seeing how the Falcons go against the only other undefeated WAFL side this Saturday and it just happens to be the club he knows well, Claremont at Claremont Oval.

"I'm really looking forward to the game. There's no doubt there will be a bit of heckling from some of the people I know there and that's all good fun. There's no question that Claremont has amazing depth and they are going to be a tough proposition," Crute said.

"After our game against Peel, Matt Guadagnin said during the post- match presentations that we will need to bring A game to get anywhere near Claremont. There's no doubt we are going in as underdogs, but I think sometimes that’s a good place to be. They are clearly the team to beat. They are going for a three-peat which is just an extraordinary achievement if they get there, but as we all know it’s a two horse race and anyone can win on the day."