An inter-university sports event was abandoned after it descended into violence, with fights breaking out between rival students and bottles thrown at crowds and security staff.
Leaders at the University of Sussex and Brighton have launched an investigation into the “shocking and disgraceful” behaviour at the annual fixture on Sunday after spectators were seen throwing flares, burning university banners and chanting “misogynistic, homophobic and racist” songs.
Several people were taken to hospital after being hit with projectiles and a mens’ rugby match was abandoned at half time following a pitch invasion.
Police attempted to break up the rivals, while bars on the Sussex University campus – where the event was being held – were temporarily closed down during the violence.
Journalist student Daniel Green said: “I saw Sussex students shouting abuse and throwing cans of beer at some of the Brighton fans and players even before the main incidents of violence.
“The almost riotous behaviour that followed is deplorable and I hope that those responsible face the consequences,” Green added.
“I also hope that the actions of a small minority do not end up resulting all students being punished through the cancellation of fixtures.”
According to student newspaper The Tab, violence broke out at the mens’ football match at midday after Brighton supporters began burning Sussex University banners and students from both institutions began offensive chants.
While police cleared the football and rugby pitches, there was reportedly further fights during a basketball match when a Brighton player was sent off.
Sussex University’s student union condemned the violence, saying the “dangerous and disrespectful conduct of a small number of spectators” put students in danger.
A spokesperson said: “This level of disruption and violence was unprecedented at previous Varsity fixtures, with bottles thrown at the crowds and security staff as well as other dangerous behaviour.
The union, which hired external security, said a “thorough risk assessment” had been carried out before the event.
Speaking about pitch invasion during the rugby match, they added: “The decision to move Brighton spectators into an unfenced area was not made by anyone from the Students’ Union. We will be reviewing how this happened as it was not in our event protocols.
“It is a shame that this misconduct marred the great behaviour and sporting conduct of the majority of the spectators and all of the players on both sides.”
Professors Adam Tickell and Debra Humphris, vice chancellors at the University of Sussex and Brighton, said students involved in the violence will face “serious consequences”.
“The scenes witnessed at the annual Varsity sports day were shocking and disgraceful,” the pair said in a joint statement.
“We unreservedly condemn the behaviour. The future of fixtures will be under review as part of our wider investigation.”
Sussex Police, who are examining CCTV of the incident, are asking witnesses and those with any information to come forward.