Top rugby referee Steve Walsh has come clean on his battle with alcohol, admitting that personal issues are behind his departure from the sport.

As family, friends and his former employer, the New Zealand Rugby Union, rally behind the former top whistler, his father confirmed his amicable break-up with TV presenter and former Black Fern Melodie Robinson led to upheaval in his personal and professional life.

"Oh, no question - Steve took that very hard," said Ken Walsh.

Steve Walsh, who officiated in 35 tests and two rugby world cups, admitted last week he had been "struggling with a whole lot of things around what's happened in my personal life in the past couple of years".

"I've used drink to, you know, relieve those pressures," Walsh told Radio Sport's Phil Gifford. "Clearly I got to the stage where I wasn't thinking straight and I didn't have the ability to say no to another drink and I stayed out."

The NZRU announced last week that Walsh, 36, had "retired" from his refereeing career, following a series of incidents over five years, culminating in a drunken night out in Sydney during a business trip late last year.

The Herald on Sunday revealed in December that Walsh turned up drunk the following morning to a Sanzar conference for coaches and referees. He was asked to leave.

"I went out with some friends on the second night and did something that was completely unacceptable, and pretty much drank through the night and arrived at the conference," Walsh said on Radio Sport.

"I was definitely under the influence of alcohol. I was asked to leave, which I did, and pretty much as a consequence of that inquiry and me owning up to my mistakes, the rugby union wasn't prepared to give me another chance and yeah, the upshot is that I'm finished refereering in New Zealand."

Walsh said he had sought independent advice from Community Alcohol and Drug Services when he realised "I had a problem about how I drank".

"I take personal responsibility for what I did and it was unacceptable. I'm continuing to get help and I need to if I want to get back into any walk of life, really. I need to make sure that these things don't happen again because it will interfere with my professional life, I'm sure."

Walsh is understood to be in a new relationship, with an Australian model, and has made informal, tentative queries about refereeing in Japan, but this had not come to anything.

Robinson did not want to comment.

Walsh told Radio Sport he wasn't looking for another chance from the rugby union. "I was looking for a last chance but, in the end, they weren't prepared to go down that route."

NZRU professional rugby general manager Neil Sorensen said Walsh had had a "very complex, complicated last couple of years", and the union had intervened and supported Walsh on numerous occasions, with "paid professional services".

"We were aware of all the issues. He totally opened up to us, so we totally supported him."

As well as the alcohol issues, Walsh hit headlines at the 2003 World Cup, when he clashed with an English fitness trainer on the sideline, and in 2005 when he verbally abused a Lions player in the match against Taranaki.

The NZRU has not closed the door on Walsh returning to rugby. "I'd like to sit down with Steve at the end of the year and say 'how are we going, where are we at and what else can we do?'" said Sorensen.

"We are more concerned about the type of person Steve will be when he is 47 rather than rushing him back on to the field when he is not 100 per cent right.

"I would take Steve back but, first and foremost, he's got to get himself right."

While Walsh is a respected whistler, it is understood he lost the respect of some colleagues because of the way he conducted himself off the field.

Ken Walsh said his son was now working on a business connected to the Walsh family, importing digger machinery. "He's a good sort, a hard case. He is quite well respected, he's obviously talented."

Walsh said his son performed well under former NZRU referees' boss Keith Lawrence. "Keith seemed to get the best out of that boy."

However, it was now up to his son to continue to turn his life around.

"I feel very proud of him, of course. I probably look at him more than the game. We are all proud of Steve to get to the top of the world or close to be near that top bracket."