Key Points:

A study that found sports teams with alcohol sponsorships drank more heavily is nothing new, says Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) chief executive Gerard Vaughan.

The study published in the international Addiction journal surveyed 1279 New Zealand athletes across a range of codes and found half received sponsorship, which included deals on drinks.

"The association between the provision of free or heavily discounted alcohol and problematic drinking was not surprising, really," Mr Vaughan said. "We know from other research that the cheaper alcohol is, the more people drink."

New Zealand was a sporting country and many people learned their drinking habits in a club setting.

"We already have a bit of a problematic drinking culture anyway and if you are going to make the alcohol really cheap then people are going to have more problems."

He said it was timely for New Zealanders to start discussing the drinking culture and encouraged further research to find how large the problem was and how much alcohol companies contributed to the running of clubs.

"It's time to have a good hard look at it and at what some of the options and some of the solutions are."

In 2006, Sport and Recreation New Zealand (Sparc) made a submission to the Ministry of Health as it reviewed regulations on alcohol advertising.

Sparc said more research on the relationship between sport and alcohol was needed before any changes were made to sponsorship.