- Carol Ward and Fiona Barber share their stories as part of the Football v Homophobia campaign
- They are members of Foxes Pride and have been married since 2014
- Carol came out when she was 48 years-old and Fiona at 30
The couple – who have been married since 2014 – share their stories with us, while discussing some of the challenges they’ve faced in their lives.
Football v Homophobia exists to challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression at all levels in football, with the campaign’s month of action held in February each year.
Carol said: “I’m a mother of two sons and a grandmother of two as well. I’ve been a supporter of Leicester City since I met Fiona in 2013, and have always loved football, but not necessarily LCFC as I grew up in Oldham so I’m also an Oldham Athletic fan.”
“I was brought up in and around London but moved to Lincolnshire at the end of the '70s,” Fiona explains. “I then moved to Leicester in the early '90s and that’s when I started supporting Leicester City.
“I had a background in sport as my father used to take me everywhere as a child. We used to go to football matches all the time, and we lived right near a hockey and rugby ground too, so I’ve always loved sport.
He didn’t really want to talk about the subject and that was probably because 18 months later he came out as gay. I think it enabled him to actually confront his own sexuality because up until that point he hadn’t.”Fiona
“Moving to Leicester was an opportunity for me to continue that passion for sport given how many teams there are in the city. We occasionally drop in to watch Leicester Tigers, but Leicester City have our hearts, first and foremost.”
The pair met each other in 2013, with Carol coming out when she was 48 years-old and Fiona at 30.
“We’d both been single a while,” Fiona says. “We met via the internet which I guess is a common way of meeting people these days. After chatting a little bit online, we decided to meet up in person and went to a pub in Leicester.
“We discovered we had a mutual admiration for football, dogs and walking, and we just hit it off from there.”
Asked about her experience of coming out and how it impacted her two sons, Carol replied.
Carol & Fiona pictured with members of Foxes Pride at Leicester Pride in 2017.
“One of my sons and his future wife were still living with me at the time and they used to come with me to the pub to the ‘gay nights’ so that I didn’t feel uncomfortable.
“My other son found it very difficult at the beginning though. He didn’t really want to talk about the subject and that was probably because 18 months later he came out as gay.
“I think it enabled him to actually confront his own sexuality because up until that point he hadn’t.”
They have been involved with Foxes Pride – LCFC’s LGBTQ+ supporter group – since their formation in 2015 and tell us about some of the experiences they’ve faced in a football setting.
If there are any LCFC fans who feel unsure about their sexuality or don’t know how to mix with other LGBTQ+ people, then please come forward and talk to us.Carol
“When we go to a match, we’re not overly demonstrative with each other,” says Fiona.
“If we were a hetero couple, we might hold hands around the stadium or share a kiss after a goal, but we don’t, so I certainly feel a little bit constrained in that respect.
“If we’re sitting in the stands and we hear homophobic chanting from the away fans I’m happy to report this to the Club’s text line, but if we get it from the person sat next to us then that’s a different kettle of fish to deal with.”
“We did have an issue with that a couple of years ago when a guy behind us was chanting homophobic abuse,” Carol explains.
“We knew this person because we saw him at every game, but we were really stuck as we didn’t know what to do and that can be difficult.
“We spoke about it afterwards and said if it ever happened again, we’d have a quiet word with him.”
Discussing the challenges they’ve faced away from football, Carol reveals how holidays can sometimes cause uncomfortable issues.
“We’ve just booked a cottage in Scotland for later this year, and I said to Fiona ‘oh, shall I put both of our names down just so they know it’s two women coming together’ so it’s stuff like that and how you word things to hoteliers that can be difficult, not that it should matter or that you should even have to think about it.
Carol and Fiona
Carol and Fiona toast Leicester City's stunning 2016 Premier League title success.
“Another example is when we went to Crete a few years ago, which is obviously a different culture, and the guy at the hotel had an issue at first with giving us a double bed because he thought he’d made a mistake and put us in the wrong room and had to find two single beds for us instead.
“It’s that sort of thing that happens a lot, so we have to make a point of the fact we’re married and for people not to worry about it.”
Asked what message they’d like to give any LGBTQ+ person who is thinking about coming out, Carol said: “It’s about being who you are because it’s harder to be somebody you’re not.
“If there are any LCFC fans who feel unsure about their sexuality or don’t know how to mix with other LGBTQ+ people, then please come forward and talk to us.”
Please click HERE for more information about Football v Homophobia.
For further details about Foxes Pride, please click HERE.
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