A new study has shown that sportspeople who are financially backed by the alcohol industry are likely to indulge in binge drinking than those with non-alcohol sponsors.
This is due to the fact that apart from sponsoring payment of competition fees and the supply of sports kit, almost half of the sponsorship deals included free or discounted alcohol for sporting functions and post-match celebrations.
"Alcohol consumption is a leading cause of mortality, responsible for 9.2pct of the disease burden in developed countries," said the study's author, Dr Kerry O'Brien, who is based in Manchester's School of Psychological Sciences.
"Heavy episodic drinking is particularly harmful. It is common among sportspeople and is associated with other risky behavior, such as drink-driving, unprotected sex and antisocial behavior," O'Brien added.
The research team from The University of Manchester and the University of Newcastle in Australia quizzed nearly 1,300 sportspeople and found alcohol-related companies sponsored almost half of them.
"Sportspeople receiving direct alcohol-industry sponsorship of any kind, including payment of competition fees, costs for uniforms and the provision of alcoholic beverages, reported more hazardous drinking than those not receiving sponsorship," said O'Brien.
"Similarly, those receiving free or discounted drinks from sponsors and those sportspeople that felt they were required to drink their sponsor's alcohol product at their establishments reported even higher levels of drinking," he added.
The research, say the authors, raises serious ethical issues for sports administrators concerned with the health of sportspeople.
"We suggest that health and governmental organisations need to work with sporting organisations and clubs to find ways to sever links with the alcohol industry, while still ensuring sports groups have sufficient financial support," O'Brien added.