UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has visited Nottingham Forest football club to launch a regional health initiative backed by the club’s owner, Evangelos Marinakis.

Shipowner Marinakis, who bought the Premier League club in 2017, invited Sunak to the City Ground to launch the club’s “Vision for Sport” programme.

Evangelos Marinakis (left) and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground. Photo: Nottingham Forest

The initiative is aimed at offering children and families in the Nottingham region the opportunity for sports activities to improve health.

Sunak hailed the scheme as “a real example of the good that a club that is truly grounded in its community can do”.

He added: “Nottinghamshire will be a happier and healthier place because of this initiative.”

Sunak was in Nottingham to launch his Conservative party’s campaign for local elections in early May. The embattled prime minister’s party is consistently about 20% behind its Labour rival with a general election due later this year.

Marinakis, who is chairman of Capital Maritime & Trading Corp, pledged his personal support for the initiative.

“Whatever is needed to complete the project investment-wise, we and I are passionately committed to doing so for the region.” The initiative is backed by Nottingham Council and supported by the club’s sponsor, energy firm E.ON.

Marinakis also owns Greek club Olympiacos and Rio Ave in Portugal.

Forest chairman Tom Cartledge said the project had been developed from an initial idea over the past three months. He said the club wanted to “harness the energy the Premier League football has made to the city” of Nottingham.

“We are delighted that the prime minister offered his support.”

Forest is currently in the relegation zone, third from bottom of the league table after the deduction of four points for breaching the league’s financial rules. Forest has spent about £300m ($378m) recently on 43 players to help keep them in the top division.

Forest fans were brutal and humorous in their judgement of the video of Sunak’s visit on YouTube. “[Brian] Clough will be spinning in his grave,” one said of the legendary progressive Forest manager.

“Just what we needed when struggling — invite the world’s biggest loser to come visit,” another said. “Hopefully only one of these two is getting relegated this year,” a third added.