What about a seeding structure for the middle 8? For example, the top ranked club of each division's 4 clubs (9th & 1st) could play the bottom ranked club of each division's 4 clubs (12th & 4th), home and away. 3rd and 4th would then do likewise and where you finish in the four would be important, as could secure you theoretically easier fixtures. This is just an example of a seeding system, but I agree the initial leagues rounds need to count. Something like this could be the answer, but obviously funding and the cap are essential to anything working.