Former CFL chairman Jim Lawson joins Tiger-Cats, Forge FC as exec

A former Canadian Football League chairman is set to join the sports group that owns the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Forge FC as an executive committee member.

Jim Lawson says he’s now a part of the Hamilton Sports Group creating a brain trust for the organization that includes owner Bob Young and CEO Scott Mitchell.

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“I’ve had a close relationship with with Bob and Scott over the years since I joined the Canadian Football League in 2013,” said Lawson in confirming his appointment.

“I was approached by Bob and Scott to come and help them, and I will do what they would like me to do. I’ve said many times that anyway I can help.”

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The 63-year-old Hamilton native says he’s not likely to have a lot of time on his hands in the near future as he continues his post as the CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group, Canada’s largest racetrack operator.

Lawson has also been chairman of the board for the Ontario Racing Commission and served as chairman of the Jockey Club of Canada.

The new exec was a CFL board chair in 2013 and was twice the league’s commissioner in 2014 and 2017. He was given a commissioner’s award before leaving the CFL in 2019.

Lawson said his stint as the top guy was “hard” considering the pressures of answering to nine owners, all with differing governance structures within their organizations.

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“You’ve got privately owned teams and you’ve got corporately owned teams and you’ve got community owned teams and they’re not always on the same agenda,” Lawson said.

He’s also a member of the Burlington Sports Hall of Fame as of Tuesday night. He said his induction was a bit of a surprise.

“You really don’t go through life thinking about it,” said Lawson. “It’s not something that one spends any time focused on.”

Lawson ventured into the sporting world in the 70s playing minor hockey and eventually being drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1978.

However, during his sports career, he began looking at pursuing a life in law and applied to Brown University knowing it had a high acceptance rate for students.

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“My recruiting dinner was in Providence, Rhode Island in 1975, I had dinner with a supreme court judge and told him I wanted to go to Brown and practice law ultimately,” Lawson said.

He would eventually retire from hockey after a stint American Hockey League with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, rounding out his education in law with five years at the University of Western Ontario.

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He has also served as a director at Algoma Steel and Sleep Country Canada.

“I was always passionate about football and sports and in horse racing,” said Lawson.

“I’ve been just so lucky to be able to – in my business career, my professional career – follow that passion.”

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