(Bloomberg) -- All of the directors of Hockey Canada resigned, and its chief executive officer departed, following months of controversy over how the organization has handled sexual assault allegations against players. 

The departures from Canada’s hockey governing body were announced after major sponsors including Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Tire Corp., Restaurant Brands International Inc. and Bauer Hockey pulled or suspended sponsorship support in response to public outrage. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed the move, calling it an “important first step.” But he said the organization’s culture must change as well to ensure Hockey Canada “protects employees, protects Canadians, protects our kids as they play hockey.”

The scandal began when a woman filed suit for C$3.55 million ($2.58 million), alleging that she was sexually assaulted by a group of players in 2018, including members of a team that had won the world junior hockey championship earlier that year. The case was settled out of court and it’s never been disclosed which players were allegedly involved. 

The case led to a further revelations that Hockey Canada had used a secret account -- partly funded by the registration fees of young players -- to settle more than a dozen sexual misconduct cases for millions of dollars. 

The mass resignation of the board follows parliamentary committee testimony last week by Andrea Skinner, Hockey Canada’s interim chair. She argued that the problems Hockey Canada faced with sexual misconduct were reflective of a broader societal problem and said the sport shouldn’t be a “scapegoat” for it. She also prompted a backlash by suggesting that local hockey rinks might have trouble keeping the lights on if Hockey Canada’s management left. 

Skinner resigned under pressure over the weekend. 

“Recognizing the urgent need for new leadership and perspectives, the entire board of directors announced it will step aside,” Hockey Canada said in a statement on Tuesday that also announced the departure of CEO Scott Smith. 

An interim management committee will be put in place until a new board is chosen -- likely in December -- and a new CEO is appointed, the group said. 

“We expect Hockey Canada to actively work towards a team whose expertise will contribute to better support and training for players, and an environment exempt from sexual violence and discrimination,” Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge said in a statement. 

(Updates with prime minister’s comments in third paragraph.)

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