The boozy behaviour of footballers pictured stumbling out of nightclubs in the early hours does not seem to lead their young fans to drink more alcohol, research out Thursday found.

There is "much stronger evidence" for a link between drinks companies sponsoring sporting events and heavy drinking in young people than there is with the actions of stars themselves, the study said.

Researchers at Britain's Manchester University and the University of Western Sydney in Australia asked over 1,000 young people, including sportspeople, to fill out questionnaires about how much they thought high-profile sports stars drank compared to their friends, plus about their own drinking habits.

"Our research shows that young people, both sporting participants and non-sporting participants, don’t appear to be influenced by the drinking habits of high-profile sportspeople as depicted in the mass media," said lead researcher Kerry O'Brien.

Young people often drink too much because they over-estimate how much their friends drink, the study found.

O'Brien said it was "disingenuous" to blame sports stars for the situation.

"Sport administrators... are very quick to condemn and punish individual sport stars for acting as poor role models when they are caught displaying drunken and loutish behaviour," he said.

"But there is much stronger evidence for a relationship between alcohol-industry sponsorship, advertising and marketing within sport and hazardous drinking among young people than there is for the influence of sports stars drinking."

The findings are published in the journal Drug And Alcohol Review.