Medical experts in the UK and Australia are calling for a ban on alcoholic drinks firms sponsoring sports events.

In an article in the journal Addiction, researchers call for a new approach to the debate over whether alcohol industry sponsorship of sport increases drinking among sports participants.

The researchers say that the alcohol industry should be required to prove that industry sponsorship of sports does not cause "unhealthy alcohol use" among adults or encourage children to drink.

The article also argues that it should not be left to the public to demonstrate that alcohol industry sponsorship is harmful. Instead, it should be up to the proponents of the activity - ie the drinks industry - to show that the practice is harmless.

"The latest moves by the major sporting codes in Australia, to lobby against the regulation of alcohol sponsorship of sport, are indicative that these bodies remain in denial of alcohol-related problems in their sports," said lead author Dr Kypros Kypri. 

The editorial follows a study in New Zealand last year suggesting that those who received alcohol industry sponsorship in the form of free or discounted alcohol drank more heavily than those not in receipt of such sponsorship.

The Portman Group, the drinks industry's self-regulatory body in the UK, said it is "concerned" to ensure sponsorship is done responsibly and that it is "keen" to learn of new research.

"The New Zealand study was essentially about amateur sports teams … being given free drinks by their local pubs and clubs. Its findings, while interesting, have very limited relevance to the issues surrounding drinks producers' sponsorship of sport in the UK," said David Poley, Portman Group chief executive.

Alcoholic drinks firms sponsor large scale sporting events, such as Heineken's association with the UEFA Champions League and Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky's deal with the McLaren Formula One motor racing team. 

In September this year, Carlsberg extended its sponsorship with the English Football Association for a further four years.