A university sports day descended into violent clashes between rival supporters on Sunday, as students were seen throwing flares and bottles, burning banners and chanting derogatory songs in front of hundreds of spectators.
The clashes between students from the Universities of Sussex and Brighton - who were seen dressed in tribal face paint - resulted in several students being taken to hospital after they were struck with bottles and other projectiles.
Amid the violence, one student is believed to have threatened another with a knife, as stewards and police officers struggled to control supporters on either side.
Police confirmed that a student was arrested on suspicion of carrying a weapon, and has since been released pending further inquiries.
Fights between rival groups of students are believed to have started after Sussex supporters were heard chanting provocative chants towards the Brighton spectators.
According to a number of onlookers, the students, described as “posh boys”, chanted “We get AABs, you get STDs”, whilst rival groups responded by burning homemade banners.
The string of skirmishes between supporters, described by management from both universities as “shocking and disgraceful”, required police intervention and resulted in a number of nearby bars being closed in an attempt to prevent the violence from escalating.
Erupting on Sunday afternoon on Sussex University’s sports complex, the fighting escalated around midday during a rugby varsity match, forcing officials to abandon the contest at half-time.
At least two female students are believed to have been injured after being hit by projectiles during the match, which also saw supporters stage a pitch invasion.
Nearby, several students were taken to hospital with suspected concussion following a brawl at a football match, whilst the referee and linesmen were hit by objects thrown by supporters.
The incident has forced both universities to launch a formal investigation, with the culprits potentially facing expulsion if caught.
Vice-chancellors of Sussex and Brighton, Professors Adam Tickell and Debra Humphries, said they condemned the incident as they warned that the students involved would face “serious consequences”.
"The scenes witnessed at the annual varsity sports day were shocking and disgraceful,” they said in a joint statement.
“A full investigation has been launched into events and any students identified as having participated in the disorder will face serious consequences under our codes of discipline.
“We unreservedly condemn the behaviour. The future of fixtures will be under review as part of our wider investigation."
cant believe police shut down sussex campus bc people got bottled at varsity— ✨alby✨ (@blemsquad) March 19, 2017
Charlotte Eaton, a member of the Sussex women's rugby team, said: "Brighton Uni fans stormed the pitch, so they cancelled the match halfway through. Then the fans were throwing flares at each other and bottles - I nearly got hit by one."
Another spectator said that the lack of stewards present at the fixture had exacerbated the problem, adding: "It became so bad it just spilled over onto the pitch and it all had to be cancelled. Some students were injured, people were lying around with bloody faces. I've never seen anything like it."
"They easily could have prevented this with better planning. Not to mention, once the match was called off because of fights they could easily have moved people off in smaller groups to make it safer.”
Sussex Students’ Union said the actions of supporters had been “violent and intimidating” as they warned that those involved may have jeopardised the future of the annual fixture.
“We condemn violent and intimidating behaviour and will be investigating what happened. We will be working with the police, campus security and the security team we hired for the event,” they added.
“It is a shame that these actions spoiled a day of great sporting conduct and fair play by the Brighton and Sussex teams and many spectators.”
Sussex was reported to have won the Varsity cup for the fourth year in a row, winning 12.5 – 8.5.
When Brighton vs Sussex varsity rugby match turns into a full on riot with uni flag burnings, flares and streakers #evwasthestreaker— marf (@marfa_97) March 19, 2017
A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “Police were called to a report of a large fight that had broken out among spectators at a varsity rugby match at Falmer on Sunday.
“Police are examining CCTV of the incident and want to speak to anyone who was injured or who may have witnessed or have information about the incident.”
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