One of the most coherent articulations that something fishy occurred on Wednesday night came from a source least expected: an opinion piece in a Spanish paper.

To be honest, the paper in question is 'As`, usually the Real Madrid comic. On the surface, this week 'As`, like its cousin 'Marca` has been waving the flag for the Spanish team … whilst also reporting the polemic involved in Barça`s win. Particular glee has been reserved for the assessment of the performance of Jordi Henning Ovrebo, the hapless (and that`s keeping it polite) Norwegian ref who took time off his day job as head of the Norwegian FC Barcelona fan club to toot his blaugrana whistle exclusively towards players in a blue shirt.

The analysis, in an opinion piece by heavyweight contributor Alfredo Relaño, goes like this. According to the variety of sources, Henning managed to blow NOT ONE penalty, forgiving anything between two and five penalties. Relaño considers that there were three definite penalties (according to the parlance, these are 'stonewall` penalties) not given. But what is particularly bizarre is that all the penalties not given were in the away area, where it is much easier to blow. Furthermore, it has been the case for decades that European referees are always more favourable to the home team. That`s not normal.

In fact, whatever way you look at it, Henning`s refereeing of Wednesday`s game was utterly improbable, all the more so when you see the faults in question. 'As` helpfully publishes a scrapbook of these. You can see, for instance, that when Gerard Pique mistakes the sport for basketball, the referee has a very clear vision of what happened, he`s looking straight at the action. Hell, Pique himself admits he handled the ball.

What is more, Henning is a referee who, whilst he doesn`t give penalties that often, certainly does award them. So how did it happen that he didn`t on Wednesday night, therefore significantly altering the result of the game?

There are people who are pointing to a conspiracy. UEFA doesn`t like Chelsea, they have had a bone to pick with us since all that 'death of football` rubbish. Let`s not make it 'personal` and about Chelsea.

Let`s not even make it about ensuring the 'dream` final of Barcelona versus Manchester United. That`s a load of guff and a sophistication beyond UEFA bureaucrats. The two best teams on the continent playing the most attractive football? Please don`t insult us by suggesting that that is the case, and that therefore the competition will be contaminated. 

No, the real disaster for UEFA was another all-English final, moreover a repeat of last year`s billing. We`ll pass on the fact that Michel Platini doesn`t like English football, it`s about something a lot more basic than that. It`s about maximising revenues.

Last year`s final was already an all-English affair. It was magnificent for the English fans (because even those that weren`t fans of either team had an interest). But outside the UK, it was a bit of a turn-off. The English markets would have been covered by just the one English team, having two simply saturated the UK-based advertisers. On the other hand, it was hard to reach out to sponsors or broadcasters in other countries. We are guessing that, say, selling the broadcasting rights in Spain or France to last year`s final was not so easy. After all, all countries offer Premier League football, mostly on pay per view, so a Chelsea - Manchester United game is seen at least twice a year, and usually (with the various cups) more often. The attraction for the average football fan of a Chelsea - ManU game, even as a Champions League final, is somewhat limited. Not as exciting as a game pitching together two of the best teams in two different Leagues (preferably big ones, mind, nobody wants to see another Porto - Monaco final).

And the prospect of repeating an all-English final again, moreover with the two same teams, was worrying for UEFA. There is a worry in terms of selling and marketing the final, but also an additional worry about the format of the whole competition. The Champions League is supposed to pitch the very best of the continent, offering exciting matches between clubs that rarely get to play each other. Its marketability is part of this. But UEFA`s money-making capacity is rather reduced if one country dominates the proceedings. Some bright spark could carry out an analysis of the origin of the semi-finalists the last 5 years, they would probably reveal that half of the clubs were English. Hmmm, that`s a potential bottleneck for UEFA in lucrative markets such as Germany or France, not to mention the turn-off in Spain and Italy, who still like to consider themselves as rightful guests at the very top table, and unsatisfied at usurpers from across the channel.

So we can all concur that the prospect of an all English final, what`s more with exactly the same clubs as last year, was not greeted with joy in UEFA`s headquarters. Manchester United already qualified the night before, the idea that it could be Chelse again probably filled them with dread. But from there to dreaming up a conspiracy? Did UEFA ask Henning to alter the result?

Let`s look at it another way. Contrary to what John Terry has said, Tom Henning is an experienced referee. He`s been blowing the whistle at Champions League games for over 4 seasons now. Granted, he had an incident at last year`s European Cup, which caused him to be bundled home. But that was one incident, and he admitted the mistake. It cannot be compared by the conduct in the semi-final whereby his catalogue of (non-) decisions changed the outcome of the game. Maybe the key factor (and this is the idea of Mr Relaño) is that a top referee gets to his position not when they don`t make mistakes, but when they know how to make mistakes in a way that benefits the system. You don`t see, in a World Cup, mistakes being made against Brasil or Germany or the host country, because the referee errs in a way that helps the organisers provide a happy ending to the tournament, the one that is going to be the most beneficial to them.

So if Henning didn`t point to the spot in the Champions League once (and he certainly had the opportunities to practice not doing that), it wasn`t because somebody had explicitly asked him to doctor the result. It was because Henning knew full well how things are. He`s on the payroll of UEFA, he is young enough to have a few more years of whistling ahead of him. Maybe if he was considered as helping deliver to his paymasters a result that they wanted, they would use him for more high-profile games.

Of course it was rather unfortunate for the hapless Norwegian that, contrary to what was expected, Barcelona were making such a meal out of it. They were on the back foot, and under any 'normal` refereeing of the game, Chelsea could well have been 4 up against 10 men. The best and most attractive team on the continent was simply not delivering. Maybe nobody wouldn`t notice his one-sided tooting.

One can imagine his relief when Andres Iniesta`s 93rd minute cannon went in. After all, he`d been doing everything he could to deliver UEFA a favourable result. No wait, one last penalty to refuse before blowing the final whistle.

And so, that`s how this particular conspiracy theory is articulated. Of course, like all conspiracy theories, it`s a crock of rubbish which happily twists the facts to the theory, rather than the obverse. Let`s not give any bandwidth to this kind of childish guff. 

After all, it`s hardly probably that, in a Champions League semi-final a ref fails to blow 5 possible (and 3 certain) penalties to the home side. I mean that`s never going to happen, so we don`t have to consider why.

Do we?