Football hooligans stabbed a man in a pre-match brawl when Brighton and Hove Albion visited Southend United.

Eight Brighton men were arrested after what police suspect was a pre-planned fight between Southend and Albion supporters on the seafront of the Essex resort.

Police are pledging to have the thugs responsible banned from matches even if they do not face criminal prosecution.

On Saturday, many of the 1,300 Albion fans who travelled for the match had gathered in pubs on Southend’s seafront for a lunchtime drink before going to the match.

At about 2.30pm, Essex Police were called to the Clifftown area of the town, where about 30 people were involved in a fight.

Witnesses said the street was left littered with broken glass.

A 17-year-old from Essex suffered a gash on his arm and was given ten stitches in hospital.

Police said yesterday they believed a weapon had caused the wound, but were unable to confirm exactly what it was. A witness said it was a knife.

Nine men were arrested on suspicion of public order offences and assault.

Eight of those were from Brighton, six in their early 20s and two in their late 30s. They were released on police bail.

A 19-year-old Essex man was cautioned for a public order offence PC Darren Balkham, of Sussex Police, who led a team of “spotters” to identify troublemakers among Albion fans, said the fact the fight had taken place away from the ground, and in a residential area away from busy bars, could indicate it was a pre-arranged meeting.

Saturday’s clashes followed violence at the corresponding fixture in September, when about 30 men hurled bottles at each other in Clarendon Road, Hove.

PC Balkham said the problem of hooliganism is not believed to be on the rise, but has come into the spotlight this season because of the large number of fixtures Albion have played against neighbouring clubs.

He is planning to go back to Essex for a meeting with the officers investigating the fight.

Part of the investigation will focus on whether any of those arrested were already regarded as “risk supporters”.

If charges are not brought, police can apply for a civil order banning people from matches. The burden of proof in civil courts is lower, so a judge would have to be persuaded that on the balance of probabilities the people were involved in violence.

Action was taken last month against Joshua Moore, 21, of Chichester Drive East, Saltdean, who was banned from Albion games for five years under the Football Spectators Act. He had been warned 13 times about his behaviour in four years but never charged.

Several people were removed from the Albion end of Southend’s Roots Hall ground at the end of the match and escorted by dozens of police to the station.

The move was not believed to be directly linked to the trouble but was aimed at preventing further disturbances outside the ground.

PC Balkham said: “The club fully support us through their zero tolerance policy, and we will work collectively to ensure that violent supporters cannot attend football matches or the new community stadium at Falmer.”

Albion managing director Ken Brown said: “The majority of our 1,333 fans were extremely well behaved and enjoyed the day, but sadly a small minority of so-called supporters of both clubs had a different agenda.

"We will await reports from the police, concerning the isolated, pre-arranged meeting, but anyone found guilty of antisocial behaviour can expect to be dealt with accordingly.

"Thankfully none of the injuries were serious, but I take this opportunity to remind all fans that Brighton and Hove Albion operates a zero tolerance policy on antisocial behaviour."

Anyone with information about hooliganism is asked to call PC Darren Balkham at Hove police station on 0845 6070999, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.