The alcohol industry's sponsorship of New Zealand sports teams is directly linked to problem drinking by athletes, a study has found.
The research, published in the international Addiction Journal, surveyed almost 1,300 athletes from a variety of sporting codes, including rugby, cricket and soccer.
The study found almost half of respondents received sponsorship from alcohol companies, which included free or discounted liquor.
Many players noted they felt obliged to drink a sponsor's product after a training session or game. More than half admitted drinking to what the World Health Organisation terms "hazardous levels".
The findings are thought to be applicable in Australia and Britain as well.
The study recommends sports administration bodies start seriously considering the health and ethical risks of accepting sponsorship.