Former CFL chairman joins Hamilton Sports Group as executive committee member


Published October 27, 2021 at 10:29 am

The Hamilton Sports Group includes Bob Young and Scott Mitchell, the owner and chief executive officer, respectively, of the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Forge FC of the CPL.

Jim Lawson is back in the CFL.

Multiple sources have told The Canadian Press that Lawson, who stepped down as CFL board chairman in 2019, has joined the Hamilton Sports Group as an executive committee member. The Hamilton Sports Group includes Bob Young and Scott Mitchell, the owner and chief executive officer, respectively, of the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Also among The Hamilton Sports Group’s entities is Forge FC, a Canadian Premier League soccer franchise. Young is listed as the club’s co-founder while Mitchell is its CEO.

During a conversation with The Canadian Press regarding 2021 Grey Cup tickets going on sale to the general public, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie was asked if Lawson had joined Hamilton Sports Group.

“You should probably ask Jim.” Ambrosie said.

Lawson wasn’t available for comment Tuesday. He was scheduled to be induction in the Burlington Sports Hall of Fame later Tuesday evening.

Lawson left the CFL in 2019 to concentrate full-time on his duties as chief executive officer of Woodbine Entertainment Group, Canada’s largest racetrack operator. Prior to his departure, he received the Commissioner’s award from Ambrosie, an honour presented annually in recognition of dedication and significant contribution to Canadian football.

Lawson, 63, a Hamilton native, was appointed CFL board chairman in 2013 and twice served as interim commissioner.

His first stint was from December 2014 to April 2015 following the departure of Mark Cohon until Jeffrey Orridge was hired. He again served as acting commissioner from June 15, 2017, when Orridge departed until Ambrosie was hired July 5, 2017.

Lawson comes by his football acumen honestly.

His father, Mel, played quarterback for the 1943 Grey Cup-winning Hamilton Flying Wildcats. He scored the winning touchdown and at the age of 20 became the youngest quarterback to ever win the title.

Jim Lawson’s grandfather, Charles, owned the Wildcats in the 1940s and was a key figure in the merging of the Wildcats and Hamilton Tigers to become the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1950.

Mel Lawson was also heavily involved with thoroughbred racing as the owner of Jim Dandy Stable, purchasing his first horse in 1964. His horses won 66 stakes races, impressive considering his breeding operation produced roughly two or three horses annually.

One of Mel Lawson’s most recognized horses was Eternal Search, who was the country’s second-leading money winner among fillies behind Glorious Song when she retired. Eternal Search, a grandsire of the great Northern Dancer, earned Sovereign Awards as Canadian champion sprinter (1981) and Canada’s champion older mare (1982-83) before being put down in ’07 at age 29.

In the 1984 Queen’s Plate, Lawson’s horse Let’s Go Blue and Key to the Moon were battling down the stretch before Key to the Moon finished first. Both jockeys claimed foul but the result stood.

There were members of Lawson’s camp who felt an appeal could result in the decision being overturned. But Lawson declined, choosing instead to accept the steward’s decision as final.

Mel Lawson was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2010 before passing away in 2011.

Jim Lawson was also drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1978 out of Brown University. He played two seasons with the AHL’s Nova Scotia Voyageurs before retiring to pursue a law career.

In 2018, Lawson was elected as chairman of the board by the directors of the Ontario Racing. He also served as Chairman of the Jockey Club of Canada (2010-2015).

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